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ST. FRANCIS OF ASSIST 

ESSAYS IN COMMEMORATION 
12261926 




1 \ .Francis or Assisi: 1 2, 

IQ2.6 - Essays in Commemoration 

J .^ 

With a Preface by Professor 
Paul Sabatier. ^ ! ^ 



WITH ELEVEN PLATES 
a i j u Front! s p i e c e in Colo u r 



LONDON 

iVERSITY OF LONDON PRESS, LTD. 
10 &. H WARWICK LANE, E.C.4 

1926 
THUOM 'iO HQUTIJO8 HHT 

HlHAVlV OIHOTKfA ^3 

1auoD?iV lo notoaalkw sdi nl 




THE SOLITUDE OF MOUNT ALVERNIA 

By ANTONIO VIVARINI 
In the collection of Viscount Lascelles 



IT. Francis of Assisi: 1 226- 

1926 : Essays in Commemoration 
'With a Preface by Professor 
Paul Sabatier * ^ * 



WITH ELEVEN PLATES 
and Frontispiece in Colour 



LONDON 

UNIVERSITY OF LONDON PRESS, LTD, 

10 & 11 WARWICK LANE, E.C.4 
1926 




THE SOLITUDE OF MOUNT ALVERN1A 

By ANTONIO VIVARINI 
In the collection of Viscount Lascelles 




T. Francis of Assisi: 1 226- 

1926 : Essays in Commemoration 
With a Preface by Professor 
Paul Sabatier <e ' ^ * 



WITH ELEVEN PLATES 

and Frontispiece in Colour 



LONDON 
UNIVERSITY OF LONDON PRESS, LTD. 

10 & 11 WARWICK LANE, E.G.4 
1926 




THIS VOLUME is EDITED ,PY 
WALTER SETON, M.A., D.Lix. 

HON. SECRETARY OF THE BRITISH 
SOCIETY OF FRANCISCAN STUDIES 




OF 



LIBR ARIES 





Printed in Great Britain for the UNIVERSITY OF LONDON PRESS, LTD., 
by ITAZBLL, WATSON AND VINEY LD., London and Aylesbury. 



122238f 



PREFACE 

THOMAS D'ECCLESTON raconte 1 que la province francis- 
caine d' Angleterre etait arrivee vers le milieu du XIII 6 
siecle a une telle perfection que lorsque Jean de Parme 
s'y rendit, comme ministre general, il re*petait souvent : 
" Plut a Dieu qu'une pareille province fut placee au 
centre du monde pour servir de modele a toutes les 
autres ! " 

Le celebre general, dont 1'election avait etc pour 
les zelateurs de la Regie comme 1'avenement d'un 
nouveau saint Frangois, pourrait, s'il revenait sur la 
terre, etre plein du meme enthousiasme et repeter les 
memes paroles, en cette annee du sept-centieme anni- 
versaire de la mort de saint Fra^ois. 

On est en effet tente de se demander si du sol 
britannique emane pour ceux qui y habitent une sorte 
de predisposition a comprendre mieux que les autres 
peuples la pensee et la doctrine du Poverello. Et ce 
fait ne se v^rifie pas seulement dans les milieux qui 
sont franciscains de profession et se rattachent a Tune 
des families du premier ordre, a 1'une ou 1'autre des 
institutions qui remontent a sainte Claire ou enfin a 
une congregation de Tertiaires, mais on peut le con- 
stater, a des degres tres divers naturellement, dans les 
diverses regions britanniques et dans des milieux sociaux 

1 De adventu Minorum in Angliam, cap. xv, ed. A. G. Little (Paris, 1909), 
p. 123. 



PREFACE 



fort diffe'rents pour ne pas dire opposes ou contradic- 
toires. 

Des les manifestations religieuses de 1924 qui ont 
eu lieu a Canterbury pour celebrer 1'anniversaire de 
1'arrive'e des disciples du Poverello dans la metropole 
ecclesiastique on a pu constater que le Saint d'Assise 
y etait fete d'un commun accord par 1'Eglise Anglicane 
et les Catholiques Romains, comme aussi par les mem- 
bres des eglises non-conformistes. Mais ce qui fut 
encore plus caracteristique, c'est que cette union et 
cette unite n'e"taient pas seulement exterieures ou 
constitutes uniquement par la rencontre dans les 
memes eglises de foules compactes qui d'ordinaire se 
re*unissent dans des edifices differents : ce fut avant 
tout un rapprochement des coeurs et des ames, une 
communion, tres differente de la communion eucha- 
ristique, mais tres reelle, tres profonde, et qui fut a 
coup sur pour beaucoup de ceux qui y participerent 
une experience benie et qui restera une des dates 
principales de leur vie spirituelle. 

On communia en saint Franois. Et la petite 
sceur fran9aise de Saint Vincent de Paul qui au sortir 
du service de la Cathedrale s'ecriait : " Certainement 
saint Fran9ois etait la," resumait I'impression qui 
pendant toute cette journe"e fut celle de presque tous 
ceux qui ont eu le bonheur de la vivre. 

Depuis lors bien d'autres celebrations franciscaines 
ont eu lieu sur tous les points de la Grande Bretagne 
et dans des milieux fort differents, mais elles paraissent 
avoir ete influencees a peu pres toutes par 1'esprit de 
paix et de courtoisie cher au Patriarche Seraphique 
qui avait inspire tout et tous a Canterbury. 

vi 



PREFACE 



Pourquoi ne pas le dire puisque c'est un fait : Tesprit 
franciscain est mieux compris en Angleterre que partout 
ailleurs. Parmi les innombrables biographies de saint 
Fran?ois qui ont vu le jour depuis cinquante ans il y 
en a une qui vient se placer au tout premier rang, c'est 
celle du R. P. Cuthbert, capucin anglais. Peut-6tre 
meme est-elle la meilleure de toutes, parce que 1'auteur, 
sans trop se soucier des discussions critiques sur les 
sources, a ete conduit par son intuition religieuse a 
reconstituer la pensee et Tactivite du Saint, les yeux 
sans cesse fixes sur la simplicite et la pauvrete, les deux 
vertus qui ont caracterise 1'ideal franciscain. 

Or voici qu'au moment ou dans la cellule du moine 
Capucin s'elaborait ce livre ou vibre de nouveau 1'amour 
et 1'admiration de frere Leon pour son Maitre, se 
preparait 1'cEuvre d'un homme qui n'est ni capucin 
ni meme catholique, qui a pourtant eleve a Celui qui 
aimait a se qualifier du titre de " Giullare di Dio " 
(Jongleur de Dieu), un monument a la fois tout different 
et tres analogue, ou 1'Epoux de la Pauvrete est compris 
et depeint ainsi que tout son entourage avec une ardente 
sympathie qui pourtant ne diminue en rien ni la beaute, 
ni 1'exactitude historique des tableaux franciscains que 
les " Little Plays of St. Francis" de Mr. Laurence 
Housman font passer sous les yeux des spectateurs. 

Cette intuition de I'dme de Frangois et de son 
histoire est done un don particulierement frequent dans 
les pays Britanniques. 

On en trouvera une nouvelle manifestation dans le 
volume que la British Society of Franciscan Studies 
offre aujourd'hui au public et pour lequel elle m'a 
fait le grand honneur de me demander une introduction. 



vu 



PREFACE 



II m'aurait ete doux de presenter aux lecteurs 
chacun des travaux qui constituent ce recueil, mais des 
circonstances inde"pendantes de ma volonte m'obligent 
a etre tres bref. 

Je me bornerai done a jeter un coup d'ceil d'ad- 
miration et de reconnaissance sur la contribution du 
Professeur Edmund G. Gardner intitulee " Saint Francis 
and Dante." 

Parmi les franciscanisants serieux il n'en est pro- 
bablement aucun qui n'ait pas ete arrete, des le debut 
de ses etudes, par la necessite de rapprocher non seule- 
ment ces deux noms, mais surtout ces deux hommes, 
et de voir clair dans les rapports qu'il y a entre eux. 
La plupart des efforts qui ont ete tentes dans cette 
direction ont eu pour resultat des publications qui 
satisfaisaient peut-etre leurs auteurs, mais qui etaient 
loin de pouvoir s'imposer a 1'attention generale comme 
des travaux, sinon definitifs, du moins d'une reelle 
valeur scientifique. 

Parmi les innombrables ecrivains qui ont evoque 
Dante a propos de 1'histoire du Poverello la plupart, 
preoccupes surtout d'edifier leurs lecteurs, n'ont song^ 
a voir dans ce que dit 1'Alighieri du Saint et de ses 
disciples qu'une glorification oratoire et n'en ont pas 
recherche les raisons profondes, 1'origine et la valeur. 

D'autres entrained par Texcitation que creent dans 
certains cercles les discussions passionne'es que souleve 
1'interpretation de presque chaque ligne de la Divine 
Comtdie ont cru qu'il leur suffirait de se jeter dans ces 
joutes pour faire dans le monde figure d'exegetes 
dantesques. 

Devant ces echecs on s'est vite apergu que pour 



Vlll 



PREFACE 



commencer a e*tudier cette question ardue il faut d'abord 
avoir une connaissance etendue et familiere de 1'ceuvre 
entiere de Dante. Mais, parmi les franciscanisants, qui 
pouvait esperer arriver a bout d'une t^che si immense et 
si delicate ? Les conferenciers des chaires dantesques 
ont sonde* le chant XI du Paradis, mais bien rares 
sont ceux qui ont songe a voir le probleme dans son 
ensemble. 

Aujourd'hui le Professeur Gardner offre au public 
franciscanisant une etude aussi alerte que savante, basee 
sur une connaissance approfondie des textes, ou les 
qualites scientifiques se combinent avec le respect du 
lecteur et le desir de se mettre a sa portee, de lui rendre 
service, qualites qui deviennent de plus en plus rares 
dans la litterature historique contemporaine. 

L'illustre Professeur nous ouvre ses tresors avec une 
generosite dont on ne saurait lui etre trop reconnaissant. 
Et cependant ce sentiment prend des proportions qu'il 
serait difficile de decrire, lorsque nous voyons que ce 
grand seigneur de la science n'a pu si bien nous ren- 
seigner sur les rapports qui unissent les deux genies 
qui dominent tout le moyen-S.ge, que parce qu'avant 
d'etudier saint Frangois scientifiquement il avait com- 
mence par s'impregner de son caractere et de ses 
enseignements spirituels. 

PAUL SABATIER. 

STRASBOURG. 

19 Novembre, 1926. 



IX 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 

PREFACE v 

PROFESSOR PAUL SABATIER. 

SOME FRANCISCAN SUBJECTS IN ITALIAN ART ... 3 

PROFESSOR TANCRED BORENIUS, PH.D. 

THE STUDY OF THE SOURCES OF THE LIFE OF ST. FRANCIS . 15 
PROFESSOR F. C. BURKITT, D.D. 

ST. FRANCIS AND DANTE 65 

PROFESSOR EDMUND G. GARDNER, Lrrr.D., F.B.A. 

THE " LITTLE FLOWERS " OF ST. FRANCIS .... 97 
PROFESSOR EDMUND G. GARDNER, LITT.D., F.B.A. 

THE DILEMMA OF ST. FRANCIS AND THE TWO TRADITIONS 129 
HAROLD E. GOAD, O.B.E., M.A. 

THE FIRST HUNDRED YEARS OF THE FRANCISCAN SCHOOL 

AT OXFORD 165 

A. G. LITTLE, M.A., F.B.A. 

FRANCISCAN THOUGHT AND MODERN PHILOSOPHY . . 193 
CAMILLO PELLIZZI, DR. JUR. 

THE LAST TWO YEARS OF THE LIFE OF ST. FRANCIS, 1224- 

1226 219 

WALTER SETON, M.A., D.LIT. t 

THE REDISCOVERY OF ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI . . .245 
WALTER SETON, M.A., D.LIT. 

ST. FRANCIS IN ROME 267 

MRS. ARTHUR STRONG, LL.D., LITT.D., F.S.A. 

TWO FRANCISCAN MYSTICS : JACAPONE DA TODI AND ANGELA 

OF FOLIGNO 307 

EVELYN UNDERBILL. 

XI , 



LIST OF PLATES 

THE SOLITUDE OF MOUNT ALVERNIA. BY ANTONIO 
VIVARINI. IN THE COLLECTION OF VISCOUNT LASCELLES Coloured Frontispiece 

PACING PAGE 

I. ST. FRANCIS AND SIX SCENES FROM HIS LEGEND. BY 

BONAVENTURA BERLINGHIERI (1235) ..... 8 

II. ST. FRANCIS, WITH FOUR SCENES FROM HIS LEGEND. 

BY GlUNTA PlSANO ........ 32 

III. ST. FRANCIS AND SIX SCENES FROM HIS LEGEND. 

ATTRIBUTED TO UGOLINO DI TEDICE (c. 1270-80) ... 56 

IV. ST. FRANCIS CLOTHING THE BEGGAR AND DREAMING 

OF THE CHURCH. BY SASSETTA (1444) . . . .88 

V. ST. FRANCIS RENOUNCING HIS HERITAGE. BY SASSETTA 

(1444) 112 

VI. ST. FRANCIS BEFORE THE SULTAN. BY SASSETTA (1444) T 44 
VII. ST. FRANCIS BEFORE THE POPE. BY SASSETTA (1444) . 176 

VIII. ST. FRANCIS RECEIVING THE STIGMATA. BY SASSETTA 

(1444) 208 

IX. THE FUNERAL OF ST. FRANCIS. BY SASSETTA (1444) . 240 

X. MYSTIC MARRIAGE OF ST. FRANCIS AND THE LADY 

POVERTY. BY SASSETTA (1444) 272 

XL ST. FRANCIS RECEIVING THE STIGMATA. BY BENEDETTO 

MONTAGNA. (FIRST HALF OF SIXTEENTH CENTURY.) . . 312 



Xlll 



SOME FRANCISCAN SUBJECTS IN ITALIAN 

ART 

' PROFESSOR TANCRED BORENIUS, PH.D. 



B 



ST. FRANCIS 



SOME FRANCISCAN SUBJECTS IN ITALIAN 

ART 

AFTER having been for the first time definitely and 
fully emphasized by the late Henry Thode, 1 the import- 
ance of St. Francis for the development of Italian Art 
has by now become one of the commonplaces of art 
history. It is therefore not intended in this connection 
to re-traverse ground which must be familiar to 
anybody at all interested in the subject. Again, to 
most of us nowadays the episodes of the life of St. Francis 
instinctively present themselves in our imagination as 
depicted in that incomparable series of frescoes with 
which the young Giotto and his assistants towards the 
end of the thirteenth century decorated the walls of 
the upper church of S. Francesco at Assisi. For this 
very reason, those frescoes have not been drawn upon 
at all in selecting the illustrations of the present volume, 
which aim, on the contrary, at presenting material 
comparatively much less known. 

Pre-Giottesque art is represented in our selection 

1 Henry Thode, Franz von Assist und die Anfange der Kunst der Renaissance 
in Italien. First edition, 1884 ; second edition, 1904. 

3 



ST. FRANCIS 



by three examples illustrating successive stages in the 
development of an early type of altarpiece, which 
combines a full-length figure of St. Francis with a 
series of subjects from his legend. First in order of 
time (Plate I) comes the altarpiece in the church of 
San Francesco at Pescia (near Lucca), a signed and 
dated work by Bonaventura Berlinghieri of 1235, and 
thus separated by but a very short space of time from 
the earliest portrait of St. Francis in existence, the 
fresco of 1228 in the Sacro Speco of Subiaco. 1 Bona- 
ventura Berlinghieri was a leading master of the early 
school at Lucca a city which afterwards was destined 
to play but an insignificant part in the history of Italian 
painting. The available records concerning this artist 
cover the period between 1228 and 1274, and in con- 
nection with the recent revival of interest in the 
painting of the Duecento, a good deal of attention has 
lately concentrated on him. 2 This is the only signed 
work by him at present known to survive 3 : and the 
noble, hieratic figure of St. Francis derives, of course, 
enormous interest from having been painted not even a 
decade after the saint's death. The six legendary 
subjects, depicted on each side of the central figure, 
three and three, are : 

1 Accessibly reproduced in A-pollo, vol. iv. (Oct. 1926), p. 151. 

2 See Oswald Siren, Toskaniscbe Maler im XIII. Jabrbundert (Berlin, 1922), 
pp. 76 sqq. 

3 The reproductions of this picture and the altarpiece in San Francesco 
at Pisa (Plate III) are made from photographs, kindly supplied by the Italian 
Board of Education. 

4 



SOME FRANCISCAN SUBJECTS IN ITALIAN ART 

LEFT RIGHT 

(i) St. Francis receiving the stigmata, (iv) A group of cripples healed at the 
(ii) The sermon to the birds. tomb of St. Francis, who 

(iii) A crippled girl healed at the appears himself. 

sarcophagus of St. Francis. (v) St. Francis healing the lame leg of 

Bartolomeo da Narni. 
(vi) Two women and a youth exorcised 
by touching the altar of St. 
Francis. 

It is, of course, impossible to claim that these are the 
very first pictures of the legend of St. Francis ever 
painted : but they are undoubtedly the earliest known 
to us, and this fact in itself invests the six compositions 
with exceptional interest. It will also be seen that the 
series of subjects includes several (iii-vi) which were to 
enjoy a great vogue later in the Duecento, but were not 
included in Giotto's selection. They reappear, for 
instance, in the paliotto (Plate II) which now hangs over 
the door of the sacristy of the lower church of S. 
Francesco at Assisi. The picture bears no signature 
or date : it is assigned by most critics to Giunta Pisano, 
an important early Pisan master mentioned in records 
between .1202 and I258. 1 Two signed works by 
Giunta have come down to us, both crucifixes, one in 
S. Maria degli Angeli at Assisi, and the other in the 
church of SS. Raineri e Leonardo at Pisa ; he is, 
moreover, known to have painted a crucifix, now lost, 
but formerly in the upper church of S. Francesco at 
Assisi and inscribed with the date 1236, which may be 
regarded as being not very distant from that of the 

1 See Siren, op. cit., pp. 148 sqq. 

5 



ST. FRANCIS 



present picture. The legendary subjects are here only 
four, viz. : 

LEFT RIGHT 

(i) A crippled girl healed at the (iii) A woman exorcised by touching 

sarcophagus of St. Francis. the altar of St. Francis, 

(ii) St. Francis healing the lame leg (iv) A cripple healed at the altar of 
of Bartolomeo da Narni. St. Francis. 

Iconographically it will be noticed that there is a 
distinct connection between these compositions and the 
Pescia altarpiece : thus in the scene of the Healing of 
Bartolomeo da Narni there are two incidents depicted 
in * continuous composition ' : first, St. Francis touching 
Bartolomeo's leg in the water, and then Bartolomeo 
walking off with the crutches on his shoulder. 

Somewhat later in the thirteenth century comes 
the third of the cognate altarpieces devoted to St. 
Francis which we reproduce" a picture in the church 
of S. Francesco at Pisa (Plate III) which Vasari, obvi- 
ously absurdly, assigns to Cimabue, but which Dr. Siren 
claims for Ugolino di Tedice, a shadowy figure in the 
Pisan school of about 1270-So. 1 The number of 
legendary subjects is again six, as at Pescia, viz. : 

LEFT RIGHT 

(i) A crippled girl healed at the (iv) A cripple healed at the altar of 

sarcophagus of St. Francis. St. Francis, 

(ii) A sick woman healed by St. (v) St. Francis heals the lame leg of 

Francis, who appears to her. Bartolomeo da Narni. 

(iii) A woman with a tumour is (vi) A woman exorcised by touching 

healed at the tomb of St. the altar of St. Francis. 
Francis. 

1 See Siren, op. cit., pp. 195 sqq. 

6 



SOME FRANCISCAN SUBJECTS IN ITALIAN ART 

The treatment of the scenes which appear on the 
Assisi pallotto is closely echoed in the present picture : 
and it will be observed how in the early selection of 
subjects from the legend of St. Francis those which 
emphasize his power of healing physical ailments easily 
predominate. 

Some twenty or thirty years after the picture in 
S. Francesco at Pisa was painted, Giotto undertook the 
decoration of the walls of the upper church at Assisi, 
returning to the same subject quite at the end of his 
career, in the frescoes of the Bardi chapel in the church 
of S. Croce at Florence. For the reasons stated above, 
no reproductions are here given of Giotto's Franciscan 
subjects ; and we turn instead for one of the most 
remarkable interpretations of the Franciscan spirit in 
art to a much later period. On September 15, 1437, 
Stefano di Giovanni, called Sassetta, of Siena (1392- 
1450), was commissioned to execute an altarpiece for 
the church of San Francesco in Borgo San Sepolcro. 
This altarpiece which was completed by June 5, 1444 
is now dismembered. 1 The front, representing 
the Glorification of St. Francis, between St. John the 
Baptist and the Blessed Raineri Rasini, is now in the 
collection of Mr. Bernard Berenson at Settignano. 
At the back were seen eight panels depicting scenes 
from the legend of St. Francis, six of which were until 

1 Compare on this work B. Berenson, A Sienese Painter of the Franciscan 
Legend (London, 1909), reprinted from The Burlington Magazine, vol. iii, 
1903. 

7 



ST. FRANCIS 



lately in the collection of the late M. Chalandon of 
Paris, having subsequently been acquired by Messrs. 
Duveen. They are here reproduced by courtesy of 
Sir Joseph Duveen. The subjects of these pictures 
are : St. Francis clothing the Beggar and dreaming 
of the Church (Plate IV) ; St. Francis renouncing his 
Heritage (Plate V) ; St. Francis before the Sultan 
(Plate VI) ; St. Francis before the Pope (Plate VII) ; 
St. Francis receiving the Stigmata (Plate VIII) ; the 
Funeral of St. Francis (Plate IX). One picture of the 
same series (St. Francis and the Wolf of Gubbio) is in 
the collection of Comte de Martel, Chateau de Beau- 
mont, Che'verny (Loir-et-Cher) ; and yet another 1 
is the enchanting c Mystic Marriage of St. Francis 
and the Lady Poverty ' in the Muse*e Conde* at Chantilly 
(Plate X). Entirely independently of Giotto, and of 
course at ever so much greater a distance of time from 
St. Francis, Sassetta treats his subjects with a wonderful 
gift of sympathy and poetry. 

Turning from the Sienese school of the Quattrocento 
to North Italian painting of the same century, the 
frontispiece of the present volume reproduces in colour, 
by kind permission of the owner, Viscount Lascelles, 
a very interesting fragment of a picture by Antonio 
Vivarini. This panel, of narrow upright shape (31^ 
by 14 inches) is cut out of a picture of St. Francis 
receiving the Stigmata on the desert of Mount Alvernia, 
a painting which must originally have been of consider- 

1 First identified by Langton Douglas, History of Siena, p. 386. 

8 



Plate I. 




Church of San Francisco, Peseta 

St. Francis and six scenes from his I/egend. 
By Bonaventura Berlinghieri (1235). 



ST. FRANCIS 



lately in the collection of the late M. Chalandon of 
Paris, having subsequently been acquired by Messrs. 
Duveen. They are here reproduced by courtesy of 
Sir Joseph Duveen. The subjects of these pictures 
are : St. Francis clothing the Beggar and dreaming 
of the Church (Plate IV) ; St. Francis renouncing his 
Heritage (Plate V) ; St. Francis before the Sultan 
(Plate VI) ; St. Francis before the Pope (Plate VII) ; 
St. Francis receiving the Stigmata (Plate VIII) ; the 
Funeral of St. Francis (Plate IX). One picture of the 
same series (St. Francis and the Wolf of Gubbio) is in 
the collection of Comte de Martel, Chateau de Beau- 
mont, Cheverny (Loir-et-Cher) ; and yet another 1 
is the enchanting f Mystic Marriage of St. Francis 
and the Lady Poverty ' in the Musee Conde at Chantilly 
(Plate X). Entirely independently of Giotto, and of 
course at ever so much greater a distance of time from 
St. Francis, Sassetta treats his subjects with a wonderful 
gift of sympathy and poetry. 

Turning from the Sienese school of the Quattrocento 
to North Italian painting of the same century, the 
frontispiece of the present volume reproduces in colour, 
by kind permission of the owner, Viscount Lascelles, 
a very interesting fragment of a picture by Antonio 
Vivarini. This panel, of narrow upright shape (3iJ 
by 14 inches) is cut out of a picture of St. Francis 
receiving the Stigmata on the desert of Mount Alvernia, 
a painting which must originally have been of consider- 

1 First identified by Langton Douglas, History of Siena, p. 386. 

8 



Plate I. 




Church of Sim i'raneisco, Peseta 

St. Francis ami six scenes from his Legend. 
By Bonaventura Berlinghieri (1235). 



SOME FRANCISCAN SUBJECTS IN ITALIAN ART 

able dimensions. Along the left border of the panel 
we can still make out some portions of the figure of the 
kneeling St. Francis, who was seen turned to the right ; 
while above these appears the lower part of the six- 
winged seraph containing the crucifix from which the 
stigmata were communicated to St. Francis. In the 
foreground, holding the end of the cord hanging from 
the saint's waist, is seen a small figure of a kneeling 
Franciscan friar, probably the donor of the picture, 
while the remainder of the scene is taken up by an 
elaborate representation of the country round the Mount 
Alvernia. A Franciscan friar probably Brother Leo, 
who, against St. Francis's wishes, witnessed his com- 
munion with Heaven is sitting on the ground reading 
a book ; farther back are seen a church and a monastery 
surrounded by a wood ; while in the distance a sequence 
of precipitous hills stand out against a sky of gold. 
The idyllic scene is enlivened by various animals 
sporting about two bears meeting, two foxes, a stag 
at rest, and a small rabbit near the reading friar. 

A scroll at the bottom of the panel contains a frag- 
mentary inscription in Gothic characters ; the last 
line, though mutilated, allows us however to read : 

. . . de muriano pinxit. 

This is the characteristic signature of Antonio Vivarini 
of Murano, the oldest member of a family of painters 
which achieved much distinction in Venice during the 

9 



ST. FRANCIS 



fifteenth century. Neither the brother of Antonio 
Vivarini, Bartolomeo, nor two contemporary artists, 
Quiricio da Murano and Andrea da Murano, all of 
whom on mere grounds of nomenclature might be 
candidates for the authorship of this picture, can, for 
reasons of style, be associated with it. 

Antonio Vivarini is first heard of in 1 446, when he 
was already domiciled in Venice, where he continued to 
live until his death, save for a sojourn in the neighbouring 
Padua between 1447 and 1450. For some time he 
worked in conjunction with his brother-in-law, Giovanni 
d'Alemagna, who brought to Venice something of the 
spirit and mannerisms of the late Gothic painters of 
Cologne. Giovanni died in 1450, and after this 
Antonio continued to work either on his own or in 
conjunction with his younger brother, Bartolomeo. 
The date of his death is unknown, but may with some 
probability be placed about the year 1480. 

The subject of the stigmatization offered a welcome 
excuse for the elaborate rendering of landscape : and 
the emphasis laid upon this as well as on the study of 
animal life reflects in the present picture a characteristic 
feature of late Gothic art, and reminds us more especially 
of the work of such an exponent of its tendencies as 
Antonio Pisano of Verona, known as Pisanello, himself, 
as we may recall, active at Venice at the beginning of 
the fifteenth century. The stag at rest in the back- 
ground of Lord Lascelles' picture looks as if based on 
one of Pisanello's exquisite drawings of animals ; and 

to 



SOME FRANCISCAN SUBJECTS IN ITALIAN ART 

on the whole conception of the idyllic scene there is 
much to remind us of the small picture of ' St. Jerome 
in the Wilderness ' in the National Gallery, a signed 
work by Pisanello's pupil, Bono de Ferrara. The 
chief piece of evidence as regards the influence exercised 
by Pisanello upon Antonio Vivarini is supplied by the 
' Adoration of the Magi,' by Antonio, now in the 
Berlin Gallery. 1 Lord Lascelles' picture amplifies the 
evidence as regards the artistic relations between 
Pisanello and Antonio Vivarini in the most interesting 
manner. As regards the history of the panel, one would 
have imagined that some record of an altarpiece of this 
magnitude and importance would exist. I can, how- 
ever, trace no description of a picture corresponding to 
the present one in the early works on Venetian art and 
artistic topography. Lord Lascelles' panel was formerly 
in the collection of the late Lord Carmichael. 

A later phase of North Italian art is represented by 
the engraving of St. Francis receiving the Stigmata 
(Plate XI) .by Benedetto Montagna of Vicenza, the 
son and imitator of the well-known painter Bartolomeo 
Montagna, and working during the first half of the 
sixteenth century. The engraving, which from its 
severe simplicity of style probably belongs to an early 
period of the artist's career, is of extreme rarity. It 
was first described by Passavant, 2 and is also noted in 

1 Reproduced, e.g., in my edition of Crowe and Cavalcaselle, History of 
Painting in North Italy, 1912, vol. i, p. 32. 

2 Passavant, Le Peintre-graveur (Leipzig, 1860-4), vol. v, p. 147, No. 44. 

II 



ST. FRANCIS 



the list of Benedetto Montagna's engravings which I 
published some time ago. 1 I have only been able to 
trace one impression of this engraving, in the Remondini 
collection in the Museo Civico at Bassano ; it has 
never been reproduced, so students of early Italian 
engraving will be glad of the accompanying illustra- 
tion, which is reproduced from a photograph kindly 
supplied by Dr. Paolo M. Tua, Director of the Bassano 
Museum. 

1 Tancred Borenius, The Painters of Vicenza (London, 1909), p. 132, No. 3. 



12 



THE STUDY OF THE SOURCES OF THE 
LIFE OF ST. FRANCIS 

PROFESSOR F. C. BURKITT, D.D. 



II 

THE STUDY OF THE SOURCES 

ALL authentic history is based on the reports of eye- 
witnesses. This is, I venture to say, not quite such 
an universally accepted truism as it sounds when thus 
baldly formulated. But if King Alfred really burned 
the cakes, if Queen Eleanor really offered Fair Rosa- 
mund the alternative of the dagger or the poison, 
some one who was present must have told the tale to 
others or have written it down : however appropriately 
these tales may fit the persons concerned they were not 
automatically recorded. If therefore we are seriously 
to believe in any tale told of a historical personage 
such as S. Francis we must ask carefully through what 
channel it has been transmitted and, very often, who 
was the eye-witness on whose testimony the story 
ultimately depends. 

The official biography of S. Francis is the Legend 
composed by Bonaventura in 1261. For five centuries 
this was the main source of information, though since 
1 504 a curious collection of anecdotes about S. Francis 
and his chief companions called the Speculum Vitae, 
the * Mirror of a Brother Minor's Life/ had been 
available in print. This collection obviously included 
a good deal of later and quite legendary matter ; it 



ST. FRANCIS 



was doubtless read by pious folk for edification, but 
was generally regarded as useless for serious students. 
The same might be said of the Fioretti or ' Little Flowers 
of S. Francis,' a collection of Franciscan tales written 
in charming old-fashioned Italian, which was very 
popular in North Italy as a book of religious reading. 

A new era opened up in 1768, when the Bollandist 
Fathers gave to the world their study of S. Francis in 
the Acta Sanctorum (Oct., vol. ii). In this work 
were published for the first time i Celano, i.e. the 
Life written by Thomas of Celano in 1228 (or 1229), 
and 3 Socii, i.e. the Life which professes to have been 
written by Francis's three companions, Leo, Rufino 
and Angelo, in August, 1246. 

In 1806 the second life by Thomas of Celano (2 
Celano), written in 1247, was published by Rinaldi. 1 

With these publications the grave question of the 
relative value of our sources was already posed. The 
discussions that took place were not entirely uncon- 
nected with existing parties within the Franciscan 
body, and indeed it is necessary to have some idea of 
these parties, in order to estimate the weight of the 
historical evidence presented by the various documents. 
Almost from the first there were two main tendencies, 
which are still more or less represented by the Con- 
ventuals and the Observants. The official recognition 
of the Observant Franciscans in 1363 marks the end 
of a long struggle. It is not my purpose in these pages 

* Republished by Amoni in 1879. 



THE STUDY OF THE SOURCES 

i 

to follow the course of this struggle, still less to appraise 
the motives of those who waged it. It may suffice to 
say that the majority of the Franciscan friars, supported 
generally by the Popes and the leading officials in the 
Order, favoured a policy in which the extremely 
rigorous poverty and simplicity of the earlier days of 
the movement was more or less relaxed, while on the 
other hand there were never wanting earnest and 
sometimes very eloquent men who stood for the strict 
and literal observance of what S. Francis had enjoined. 
It must not be supposed that all the goodness and virtue 
were on one side. The community, represented by 
the Conventuals, might urge that the relaxations and 
modifications were necessary, if the work of a world- 
wide organization was to be carried on effectively. 
The protesting ' Spirituals ' or Zelanti, on the other 
hand, might and did quote the words and exhortations 
of S. Francis himself as their justification for disobeying 
the new regulations of their ecclesiastical superiors. 
In any case the modern historical investigator has every 
reason to be grateful to the ' Spirituals,' for it is greatly 
to their insistence upon a literal obedience to what 
S. Francis desired that we owe the preservation of so 
many reminiscences of what he actually said and did. 

The modern recognition of these ' Spirituals ' is due 
in great measure to Cardinal Ehrle, who in the Archiv 
jur Liter atur- und Kirchengeschtchte (1885-88) pub- 
lished many documents written by Ubertino da Casale 
and Angelo Clareno, the great leaders of the Spirituals, 
c 17 



ST. FRANCIS 



together with certain writings of their opponents about 
the time of the Council of Vienne (1311) and later at 
Avignon. The documents published by Ehrle bring 
out quite clearly the difference between the party of 
Ubertino and Angelo, who only wanted to obey literally 
the expressed wishes of S. Francis and based their 
case on documents and traditions handed down from 
S. Francis's companions, and on the other hand the 
people known as Fraticelli., bands of roving .fanatics, 
who had inherited the freedom of the early Franciscans 
and some of their enthusiasm, but nothing else. These 
Fraticelli could not claim to be obeying the commands 
of Francis either in the spirit or in the letter, and are 
in fact quite distinct from the true Zelanti. But the 
two were confused at the time and came more or less 
under a common condemnation ; it was not till the 
contemporary documents were published by Ehrle that 
the distinction was fully admitted. 

The Bollandists in 1768 gave the first place to 
Thomas of Celano, i.e. i Ce/ano, the earliest in date, 
and they accepted the authenticity of 3 Socii, but they 
deliberately rejected the Speculum Vttae on the ground 
that some of that collection clearly belonged to the 
1 4th century and that parts of it were obviously un- 
historical. The Franciscan historians of the century 
that followed held similar views. These men, of whom 
Papini is the type, 1 were persuaded that S. Francis 
was above all seemly and discreet, and that stories 

1 N. Papini (1751-1834), sometime General of the Conventuals. 

18 



THE STUDY OF THE SOURCES 



about S. Francis were improbable in proportion as 
they represented him to be impulsive or undignified. 
They were not rationalists in the sense of disbelieving 
in ' miracles,' quite the contrary. But they were of 
the school of Brother Elias, and like him were not 
edified at the spectacle of a Saint who could make up 
rhymes about the Sun and Moon in the vulgar tongue 
almost on his death-bed, and who encumbered his 
Order with inconvenient last wishes enjoining an 
impracticable standard of poverty. Some of those who 
brought forward these impracticable and unconven- 
tional utterances had been in the past something very 
much like rebels against due ecclesiastical Authority : 
there was every temptation for Papini and his school 
to reject traditions chiefly alleged by those rebellious 
pens. 

Some of the characteristics of Thomas of Celano 
will come up for consideration later on. But this must 
be said here at once. For about 30 years from S. 
Francis's death, i.e. till about 1260, Thomas of Celano 
was the more or less official historiographer of the 
Order. In 1228 and again in 1246 he was entrusted 
with the writing of S. Francis's Life, and after that 
with the collection of his Miracles. He was thus 
employed by Elias, by Crescentius, and by John of 
Parma, that is to say by General Ministers who were 
opposed to the zealous Spirituals and also by the one 
General Minister who whole-heartedly belonged to that 
party. We can surely gain from the writings of 



ST. FRANCIS 



Thomas of Celano a view of Francis and the Franciscan 
Movement which was that of the important body of 
men who were its leaders during the first generation 
of its existence. The question is, can we get behind 
the point of view that Brother Thomas puts before us ? 
Is there anything about Francis of historical value that 
has come down to us independent of Celano ? This is 
the decisive question in Franciscan research. 

The best known, the deservedly best known, name 
in connexion with modern Franciscan studies is that of 
Monsieur Paul Sabatier. A good deal of what follows 
will be taken up with the criticism of some of his 
theories, so that the discussion of points in which I 
believe M. Sabatier to be more or less wrong will 
occupy more space than the enumeration of those 
where I believe him to be right. It is therefore just 
and proper to explain at the outset in what the great 
services he has performed for Franciscan studies do 
actually consist. There is first, of course, the charm 
of style and the instructed enthusiasm that have impelled 
so many of his readers to take an interest for themselves 
in Saint Francis and his age. But besides this his grand 
merit, if I may be allowed to say so, is that he has seen 
that the first task of the investigator of S. Francis and 
his ideas is to endeavour to get behind Thomas of 
Celano, to study with the utmost care every scrap of 
information which may be both genuine and non- 
Celanese, for it is only by the aid of such information 
that we are able to judge intelligently what Celano 

20 



THE STUDY OF THE SOURCES 

tells us. Again and again, so it seems to me, the 
expectation has been disappointed. Much of what 
Sabatier has brought forward is either non-historical 
or else turns out to have passed through the Celanese 
alembic after all. But, as I believe, there is a residue ; 
and that we have it and can appreciate its value is 
very much due to things that Sabatier was the first 
to put forward, or if not the first certainly the most 
impressive. 

To understand the scope of what M. Sabatier's 
theories and discoveries have done for our under- 
standing of S. Francis it is necessary to describe certain 
of them at some length. Which authorities, said he, 
should a modern historian go to in the first place for 
his materials ? Have we any external criterion by 
which we may test our authorities ? It is not enough 
that a historical source is early : strictly speaking, the 
one positive merit that an early work must have is 
that fables invented at a later date will be absent from 
it. Because a writer is contemporary we cannot there- 
fore assume that he is intelligent or frank. He may be 
a party man, he may have an interest in concealing or 
modifying the naked truth. With these considerations 
in mind Sabatier started from S. Francis's own writings. 
They are not very extensive, but there is quite enough 
to form a decided impression. They were collected 
very soon after S. Francis's death, and there is little 
doubt about their authenticity or even their text. 
Since Sabatier wrote, what is practically an autograph 

21 



ST. FRANCIS 



of one of them has been discovered, 1 and the ancient 
pages of cod. 338 at Assisi which contain most of the 
certainly genuine writings (except the Rule of 1221) 
have been demonstrated on palaeographical grounds to 
have been penned in the middle of the i3th century, 
if not earlier. 2 

We have, then, in S. Francis's own writings a touch- 
stone of authenticity. What is in harmony with their 
spirit is probably genuine. What is alien from their 
spirit is inadequate, if not actually false, however 
early it may have been written down. 

Tried by these tests Sabatier, writing in 1893, found 
i Celano and 2 Celano both wanting ; on the other 
hand 3 Socii appeared to him to ring true, and so did 
much of what was contained in the Speculum V'ttae of 
1 504. On these two documents, therefore, as principal 
authorities he based his famous biography, a work 
that has passed through many editions, and is indeed 
the starting-point of much of the modern interest in 
S. Francis. But each of these documents seemed to 
Sabatier gravely defective. The Legend of the Three 
Companions was good as far as it goes, but it is almost 
exclusively occupied with the early days, the days 
before either Leo, Angelo or Rufino had joined the 
Order and become themselves eye-witnesses. The 
Introductory Letter prefixed to the work promises a 

1 I refer to the Sublaco text of the De Reuerentia: see AFH vi 3-12 

(19*3). 

2 Revue Benedictine for July, 1922. 

22 



THE STUDY OF THE SOURCES 

select collection of anecdotes, not a regular narrative ; 
but what we have is a regular chronological narrative, 
which breaks off just where the most intimate anecdotes 
from these trusted Companions might be expected to 
begin. 

Sabatier conjectured, therefore, that 3 Socii, as we 
have it, is only a fragment, that it is only the first 
quarter of a longer work, three-quarters of which have 
been suppressed. With this idea he began a search 
among MSS containing Franciscan documents, in the 
hope of finding one that should contain the missing 
chapters. That was thirty years ago : almost all the 
collections of mediaeval MSS have been ransacked, but 
the wished-for chapters have never appeared. On 
the other hand M. Sabatier's devotion was rewarded 
almost at once by a discovery of even greater import- 
ance. He had ventured to use the Speculum Vltae as a 
serious historical source because certain portions of it 
seemed to him excellent, instead of rejecting it alto- 
gether, as did most of his predecessors, because much 
of it was obviously late and inferior. These late and 
inferior parts he rejected, comprising chapters out of 
Bonaventura, chapters of the Fioretti, extracts from 
Chronicles and other extraneous matter, in all making 
up about three-quarters of the volume as printed in 
1504. The remaining quarter he judged to be homo- 
geneous and early : it was not, he saw, actually the 
conjectured missing portion of 3 Socii, but it seemed 
to him of the same quality and like it to be intimately 

23 



ST. FRANCIS 



connected with Brother Leo, the Companion of S. 
Francis. 

It was therefore a grand confirmation of his views 
when he found in a MS at Paris (Mazarine 1743) just 
these chapters contained as a separate treatise called 
Speculum Perfectionis, " the Mirror of the perfection 
of a Brother Minor's state." Further search showed 
that this was no caprice of the scribe of the Mazarine 
MS. The Speculum Perfection}* is now known to be 
extant in ten or a dozen MSS, some of them written 
as early as the middle of the i4th century. M. Sabatier 
had claimed that his conjectural selection of chapters 
from the Speculum Vitae had " an energy of virile youth 
which the Fioretti suggest but never attain to." The 
tales told in these chapters were indeed for the most 
part the same tales that are told by Thomas of Celano, 
especially in 2 Celano. But he regarded 2 Celano not 
as the source, but as the copy. In 2 Celano the story 
of Francis is " abridged with all its freshness gone, 
instead of a poem we have a catalogue." 1 

The publication of the full Latin text of the Speculum 
Perfections by Sabatier in 1898 is indeed a landmark 
in Franciscan studies. 2 It seemed to be a signal confirma- 
tion of Sabatier's theories, for here we are not dealing 
with a construction by a modern enthusiast, but the 
very words of Franciscan antiquity are speaking to us. 

1 The passages quoted are from the English translation of Sabatier's Life 
of S. Francis, published in 1894 before the discovery of the Speculum Perfectionis. 

8 Speculum Perfectionis, seu S. Francisci Assisiensis Legenda antiquissima, 
auctore fratre Leone, nunc primum edidit PAUL SABATIER, Paris, 1898. 

24 



THE STUDY OF THE SOURCES 

Moreover Sabatier's leading MS, Mazarine 1743, gave 
a date to the work. This MS itself was only written 
in 1459, but the Speculum Perfections ended with the 
words " Done in the most holy place of S. Mary de 
Portiuncula and completed on the 5th of the Ides of 
May, A.D. I228." 1 No wonder that Sabatier's Preface 
to his edition vibrates with excitement. I quote a 
few phrases here and there. " The biography of 
Saint Francis by Brother Leo : this work has been 
written at a single stretch, less than a year after the 
Saint's death. ... It is not only the most ancient in 
date ; it is also that in which the likeness of the Poverello 
stands out with the greatest vigour, originality and 
poetry. Thomas of Celano wrote only a few months 
later, but his work, better as it is in Latinity, is that of 
a disciple, not of a companion. He is relating less 
from his reminiscences than from those of others, and 
is thinking above all of the Saint whom he salutes in 
glory. Brother Leo, on the contrary, is relating the 
life of a man whose existence he has shared, whose 
secretary, friend, confessor and nurse he was. . . . 
This Legend is like letters written just after the death 
of a dear friend. . . . We record his words, his looks, 
his smiles ; we try to fix them for ever. A few years 
roll by and our reminiscences are transformed. We 
see better the life of those whom we have loved, but the 
details of their final sufferings will have faded. . . . 

1 This means n May, 1227, according to our method of indicating dates 
(not ii May, 1228). 

25 



ST. FRANCIS 



This document makes us hear the sighs of Francis, his 
groans, while at the same time it brings us into the 
very heart of his spirit. The Letters and the Testa- 
ment of Francis find their true setting. The work of 
the master and that of the disciple correspond and are 
henceforward inseparable" (Spec. Per/., ed. of 1898, 
pp. xvii f.). 

I do not quote these words to show how mistaken 
a great historian may be in his critical judgements. It 
is true that the view I hold is that the Speculum Per- 
jectionis was compiled three generations after the death 
of Francis, not in the following year, and that the 
Legend of the Three Companions is later still. The 
problem before those who hold these views is why the 
Speculum Perfectwms produced, nay still produces, 
this impression of freshness, at least in parts. It is, in 
my opinion, a problem of very considerable interest, 
going far beyond the interests of merely Franciscan 
studies, for it seems to me that the full answer has a 
very real bearing upon an analogous case, the ever-fresh 
impression produced by the Gospels in general and 
the Gospel of Mark in particular. It is with this 
question in view that I venture to quote these expres- 
sions from a living scholar, expressions that he himself 
may now desire to phrase somewhat differently after 
the discoveries and discussions of the last thirty years. 

I must now trace the steps by which Sabatier's view 
of the date and composition of his two chief sources 
has been called in question. The first was the study 

26 



THE STUDY OF THE SOURCES 

of 3 Socii by the Bollandist Father Van Ortroy, published 
in I90O. 1 Van Ortroy printed 3 Socii in parallel 
columns with i Celano, with the Life of Francis by 
Julian of Spires, and with 2 Celano. He declared that 
no further investigation was necessary : it was evident 
that 3 Socii was not a work of individual reminiscence 
but of scissors and paste, a mosaic made in the middle 
of the 1 4th century at earliest. 

This revolutionary conclusion was not at once 
accepted by everybody, least of all by Sabatier, who 
replied in the Revue historique for 1901 (vol. Ixxv). 
He claimed that the dependence upon 2 Celano was 
not made out, that in the parallel passages 3 Socii was 
the original and 2 Celano the copy. But he admits 
the use of i Celano and of Julian by 3 Socii, which 
indeed is impossible to deny after looking at Van 
Ortroy's parallels. The wonder is that this use was 
not formally recognised before. 2 

The effect of Van Ortroy's criticism was greatly to 
weaken the confidence felt in Sabatier's construction. 
Even those who held that the passages in 3 Socii sounded 
more fresh and ' Franciscan ' than the parallels in 
2 Celano were more or less embarrassed. In the letter 

1 Analecta Bollandiana xix, pp. 119-197. 

2 The reason for this was, I think, that Julian's Vita Francisci was not 
published ; it was, in fact, not published in full till 1902, where Van Ortroy 
printed it in the Analecta Bollandiana. It was known to the Bollandists of 
1768, who gave extracts, but they recognised that though an early work it 
dates from 1235 it is wholly based upon I Gelano, which it follows chapter by 
chapter. 

27 



ST. FRANCIS 



prefixed to 3 Socii the Three Companions profess that 
they " write not after the manner of a Legend, seeing 
that for a long time have Legends been put together 
of his (Francis's) life. . . . But as it were from a 
pleasant meadow we pluck certain flowers that in our 
judgement are fairer than the rest, not following a 
continuous history." And of what they bring forward 
new they say " We believe that, had these things been 
known unto those venerable men that put together the 
said Legends, they would by no means have passed 
them by." These words are quite inappropriate to 
the existing 3 Socii, which is wholly made up of parallels 
to existing Legends, for the most part narrated in the 
very same words, including in the case of i Celano 
the very marked literary tricks characteristic of Brother 
Thomas. 

As for the Speculum Perfections, not every one 
accepted the early date and authorship advocated by 
Sabatier. That it contained a very ancient element 
was indeed generally recognised. 1 But even Sabatier 
had been constrained to label the second part of 71 
as an Interpolation, though it is found in all the MSS, 
and there are other chapters, notably 85, which 
seem in their present form to have been written after 
Leo's death. In this chapter the characteristics of a 
good Brother Minor according to the mind of Francis 
are enumerated, and amongst other things are men- 
tioned " the simplicity and purity of Brother Leo who 

1 See e.g. E. d'Alen5on's Celano, p. xxxv, last line. 

28 



THE STUDY OF THE SOURCES 

really was of the most holy purity." But in another 
and shorter form of these characteristics, found in a 
set of tales given in the MS at San Antonio in Rome, 
all the clause about Leo disappears (AFH xii 377): 
this no doubt is the form as Leo wrote it, while that in 
the Speculum Perfections must be later than 1271 when 
Leo died. 

These internal considerations were reinforced by 
the publication in 1901 and 1902 of Documenta Antiqua 
Franciscana, three little volumes edited by Fr. Leonard 
Lemmens, O.F.M. In the first of these are a couple 
of tracts, which actually profess to be the work of 
Leo himself ; in the second is a different recension of 
the Speculum Perfection}*, which Lemmens claims to 
be earlier than Sabatier's ; in the third is a description 
of the MSS used, from which it appears that these 
specially interesting documents all come from a single 
MS, no. 1/73 f t^ 6 library of the Irish Franciscan 
Convent of Sant' Isidore in Rome. It was some time 
before the publications of Fr. Lemmens made much 
way : many ignored them altogether, and others 
treated them with scant consideration. Lemmens' 
Speculum (DAF vol. ii) attracted most attention : it 
was clearly a work of less general charm than Sabatier's, 
though in certain respects it had a better text in detail. 
It is not too much to say that Franciscan investigators 
did not quite know what to make of it. 

But it was really the Scripta Leonis in D A F vol. i 
that raised the most serious questions. There was 

29 



ST. FRANCIS 



nothing in them that was strictly new : the tract 
called The Intention of the Rule consisted of six or 
seven chapters of Sabatier's Speculum, that called Words 
of Francis consisted of five chapters followed by an 
appendix formed by three others. But those who have 
read Sabatier's Introduction to his edition of the 
Speculum Perfection}* will remember how much, very 
justly, he makes of the citations of Ubertino da Casale. 1 
Ubertino quoted certain writings of Leo in his Arbor 
Vite Crucifixe, published in 1305, indicating where he 
does not quote in full and ending with Hue usque 
uerba sancti Leonis. These quotations were scattered 
over various chapters of Sabatier's Speculum in an 
irregular order, so that Ubertino seemed to have an 
acquaintance with the whole work. But the Intentio 
Regule published by Lemmens consisted of just these 
same chapters in the order that Ubertino quotes them, 
so it is evident that Ubertino in 1305 is quoting the 
Intentio and not the Speculum. Similarly almost the 
whole of the Verba Francisci is quoted in Angelo 
Clareno's Exposition of the Franciscan Rule as the 
work of Brother Leo ; 2 other quotations from the 
Intentio but not from the rest of the Speculum are 
scattered over this work, and further in his History oj 
the Seven Tribulations he quotes the 4th section of the 
Intentio ( 13-15), which corresponds to the widely- 
separated sections 7 1 and 1 1 of Sabatier's Speculum. 
Ubertino and Angelo, therefore, both writing soon 

1 S/>. Perf., pp. cxlii ff. 2 Ed. Oliger, pp. 126-129. 

3 



THE STUDY OF THE SOURCES 

after 1300, do not quote from the Speculum but do 
quote from the short tracts ascribed to Leo in S. Isidore 
1/73, which are thereby proved to be more than extracts 
made by the scribe of that MS. Ubertino was the 
disciple of Conrad of Offida (f 1306), a personal friend 
of Leo, so that he must have been well informed about 
Leo's writings. He does not speak about the Speculum 
or any regular Life of Francis by Leo, but he does 
appeal to Rotuli and Cedule of his, that is to Rolls and 
Notes, i.e. to tracts such as the Intentio and the Verba^ 
and to short detached pieces such as are the single 
chapters of the Speculum. 

The shorter recension of the Speculum Perfectionis, 
preserved in the same codex (S. Isidore 1/73) as the 
Intentio and the Verba Francisci, was not at once accepted 
by all Franciscan scholars as the earlier form. It is 
certainly less impressive as a literary whole than Saba- 
tier's, being almost without plan a mere string of 
anecdotes, while Sabatier's Speculum is grouped under 
headings and the tales concerned with the last days 
of Francis are all collected at the end. This gives a 
dramatic and biographical interest to the whole work, 
which is wanting in Lemmens' recension. But because 
it is less effective it is not therefore later ; in fact the 
probability is the other way, and in a good many minor 
matters of text the shorter Speculum is actually superior. 
Moreover comparison of the two forms should not be 
made without taking into account the independent 
existence of the Intentio and the Verba. The tales told 



ST. FRANCIS 



in these two tracts do not reappear in Lemmens' Specu- 
lum, which therefore must be regarded as a collection 
made to supplement them : Sabatier's Speculum, on the 
other hand, incorporates all three collections. 

It may conveniently be mentioned here that the 
MS of the Speculum Perfectionis (longer recension) 
preserved in the Franciscan Convent of the Ognissanti 
at Florence, a MS written in the 1 4th century and one 
of the oldest and best yet found, has a similar colophon 
to Sabatier's MS, but in the Ognissanti codex the date 
is v. yd'. Maij. M.CCC.XVIIJ. (whereas Sabatier's 
MS has M.CC.XXVIIJ.). M. Sabatier is probably 
right in asserting that the reckoning employed at 
Assisi was the c Pisan style,' according to which all 
dates after Lady Day are reckoned to one year later 
than our reckoning, so that the two dates given above 
are respectively the nth of May, 1317 and 1227. 
But whether 1317 or 1318 be meant, the date given 
in the i/j-th century codex at Florence is more likely 
than that in the i5th century MS at Paris. Whether 
1317 be in itself a probable date for the compilation 
may be left over for the present. 

In addition to these documents four further dis- 
coveries of Franciscan MSS claim notice, (i) In 
1899 was published Thomas of Celano's third work, 
the full collection of Miracles, collected during the 
Generalate of John of Parma (1247-57). It has been 
edited, together with i and 2 Celano in the admirable 
collection of Thomas's works made by Fr. E. 

32 




a 

V 

bo 



a 

2 o 

< a 

Cfl Ul 

4) --. 

d (^ 

cj ctf 

" B 

S -H 

J O 



tn 

*H 

o 



2 



Cfi 



ST. FRANCIS 



in these two tracts do not reappear in Lemmens' Specu- 
lum^ which therefore must be regarded as a collection 
made to supplement them : Sabatier's Speculum^ on the 
other hand, incorporates all three collections. 

It may conveniently be mentioned here that the 
MS of the Speculum Perjectionis (longer recension) 
preserved in the Franciscan Convent of the Ognissanti 
at Florence, a MS written in the I4th century and one 
of the oldest and best yet found, has a similar colophon 
to Sabatier's MS, but in the Ognissanti codex the date 
is v. yd'. Maij. M.CCC.XVIIJ. (whereas Sabatier's 
MS has M.CC.XXVIIJ.)- M. Sabatier is probably 
right in asserting that the reckoning employed at 
Assisi was the ' Pisan style,' according to which all 
dates after Lady Day are reckoned to one year later 
than our reckoning, so that the two dates given above 
are respectively the iith of May, 1317 and 1227. 
But whether 1317 or 1318 be meant, the date given 
in the i4th century codex at Florence is more likely 
than that in the i5th century MS at Paris. Whether 
1317 be in itself a probable date for the compilation 
may be left over for the present. 

In addition to these documents four further dis- 
coveries of Franciscan MSS claim notice, (i) In 
1899 was published Thomas of Celano's third work, 
the full collection of Miracles, collected during the 
Generalate of John of Parma (1247-57). It has been 
edited, together with I and 2 Celano in the admirable 
collection of Thomas's works made by Fr. E. d'Alen9on 

32 




13 

a 



o 
a 

a! 
V, 



B 
3 



o 

n 

2 



THE STUDY OF THE SOURCES 



(Rome, 1906). (2) In 1910 Prof. A. G. Little bought 
from the Phillipps Collection a MS (No. 12290) 
written in Italy about 1400 and containing some 230 
Franciscan pieces of various interest and value. What 
gives special importance to the MS is that nos. 140-169 
and 184-198, which form part of Aliqua exempla de 
uita beati Patris nostri. Francisci et sociorum eius, seem 
to offer a better and often a more vivid text of the 
incidents which they relate. 

(3) Somewhat similar in interest to the Phillipps MS 
(now usually quoted as Little) is the 1 4th century 
Codex of San Antonio at Rome, described in full by 
Fr. L. Oliger in AFH xii (1919). This MS con- 
tains the Life by Bonaventura and the Tracts known 
as * Bartholi ' on the annual Indulgence of the Portiun- 
cula, followed by a Third Part consisting of 95 Fran- 
ciscan anecdotes, a few of which are not found elsewhere 
and several of which seem to have a better text than 
that of other MS S. 1 

(4) In AF H xv (1922) Fr. Ferdinand M. Delorme, 
O.F.M., published two papers called " The Legenda 
Antiqua S. Francisci from MS 1046 of the Communal 
Library of Perugia," in which he gives a full account of 
what he shows to be one of the most important Franciscan 
MSS yet studied. It contains (i) a large collection of 
Papal Bulls of Franciscan interest, (2) the Life by Bona- 
ventura, (3) a collection of some no or 120 Franciscan 
anecdotes, arranged in five Chapters called by Delorme 

1 See above, p. 29, and Note 3 appended to this Paper. 

J> 33 



ST. FRANCIS 



A B C D and E. From the absence of Clement V's 
Exiui de paradiso^ and from other indications Fr. 
Delorme concludes that the collection of Bulls dates 
from 1311, and as the handwriting of the MS belongs 
to the early years of the i4th century it seems likely 
that the collection was made by the scribe himself and 
that the MS was written in 1311. Owing to the loss 
of a quire the end of the Legenda malor by Bonaventura 
is missing, together with a small piece (6 columns only) 
at the beginning of the third part : the result has been 
that what followed the collection of Bulls had been 
catalogued only as * Bonaventura/ and the precious 
third part containing what Fr. Delorme has called 
Legenda anttqua had been overlooked. 

This Legenda anttqua of the Perugia MS has almost 
exactly the same contents as Sabatier's Speculum Per- 
jectionisf but it is fuller and in text more often agrees 
with the documents in S. Isidoro 1/73. Moreover the 
order of the several pieces agrees more closely with 
these than with that of Sabatier's Speculum. But the 
grand merit of the Perugia Legend is that the five 
sections in the MS differ in their relation to 2 Celano. 
This circumstance is so important for the evaluation 
of the matter in the Speculum, that it must be explained 
more particularly. 

Most of the matter contained in Sabatier's Speculum 
is given in 2 Cetano, sometimes almost word for word, 

1 6 May, 1312. ' 

2 The chief omissions are the hexameters on the Portiuncula (Sp. S 84), 
the praise of the Ten Good Friars (Sp. S 85), and the Canticum Solis (Sp. S 120). 

34 



THE STUDY OF THE SOURCES 

sometimes in totally different words. According to 
Sabatier's theory the Speculum is the original ; in 
certain cases Thomas of Celano saw no objection to 
copying out Brother Leo's words almost as they stood, 
in others he thought well entirely to modify Leo's 
language, whether for literary reasons or because it 
reflected too strongly the ideas of the party of strict 
observance. Other scholars regard 2 Celano itself as 
the most direct representation of the reminiscences of 
Leo and other old Companions of S. Francis : no 
doubt (they say) the literary style of Thomas is every- 
where felt, but we must accept his version as the most 
authentic we have. The Speculum, on the other hand, 
represents the way these tales were told by the more 
or less rebellious Spirituals, who have often freely 
modified them in the interest of the strict observance 
and to the discredit of the official leaders of the Order. 
Thus the criteria for the relative value and authenticity 
of the two sets of tales were essentially subjective. 

A couple of contrasted parallels will make the state 
of things clearer : 

Sp. S 27 2 Cel 22 

Quodam tempore cum beatus Fran- 
ciscus coepit habere fratres et maneret 

cum eis apud Rigum Tortum prope Clamat una de ouibus node quadam 
Assisium, accidit ut quadam nocte, quiescentibus ceteris : 
quiescentibus omnibus fratribus, circa 
medium noctis exclamaiet unus de 

fratribus dicens : ' Morior, morior ! ' * Morior, fratres, morior ecce fame.' 
Stupefacti autem et territi omnes 
fratres euigilauerunt. 

35 



ST. FRANCIS 



Sp. S 27 2 Cel 22 

Et txurgens beatus Franciscus dixit : Surgit protinus pastor egregius et 
4 Surgite, fratres, et accendite lumen ! ' ouicule morbide remedio debito sub- 
Et accenso lumine dixit : ' Quis est uenire festinat. 
ille qui dixit, morior ? ' Respondit 
frater ille : ' Ego sum.' Et ait 
illi : ' Quid habes, frater ? quomodo 
morieris ? ' At ille ait : ' Morior 
fame.' 

Tune beatus Franciscus statim Mensam parari iubet licet rusticanis 
parari fecit mensam et sicut homo refertam deliciis, ubi uini defectum 
plenus caritate et discretione comedit sicut et sepius aqua suppleuit. Incipit 
cum illo ne uerecundaretur comedere primus ipse comedetQ, et ad charitatis 
solus ; et de uoluntate ipsius omnes officium, ne tabescat frater ille rubore, 
alii fratres pariter comederunt. reliquos fratres inuitat. 

The natural inferences to be drawn from this parallel 
are : (i) The two tales cannot be wholly independent 
reminiscences of the same event. (2) That in the 
Speculum is much more original, and certainly cannot 
be derived from that in 2 Celano. (3) That in 2 Celano 
on the other hand may very well be a rewriting of the 
tale in the Speculum by an affected stylist. 
Contrast on the other hand : 

Sp. S 93 2 Cel 127 

Ebrius amore et compassione . Nonnumquam uero 

Christi quandoque talia faciebat, talia faciebat. 

nam dulcissima melodia spiritus Dulcissima melodia spiritus 

intra se ipsum ebulliens frequenter intra ipsum ebulliens 

exterius gallics dabat sonum exterius gallic-am, dabat sonum 

et uena diuini susurrii quam et uena diuini susurrii quam 

auris eius suscipiebat furtiue auris eius suscipiebat furtiue 

gallicum erumpebat in iubilum. gallicum erumpebat in iubilum. 

Lignum quandoque Lignum quandoque, 

ut oculis uidimus, 

(olligebat de terra, ipsumque colligebat e terra, ipsumque 



THE STUDY OF THE SOURCES 



sinistro bracbio superponens 
aliud lignum per modum arcus 
in manu dextera trahebat 
super illud, quasi super uiellam 
uel aliud instrumentum, 
atque gestus ad hoc idoneos 
faciens gallice cantabat 
de Domino lesu Christo. 
Terminabatur denique tota 
hec tripudiatio in lacrimas 
et in compassionem passionis 
Christi hie iubilus soluebatur. 

In his trahebat continue 
suspiria et ingeminatis 
gemitibus eorum que tenebat 
in manibus oblitus 
suspendebatur ad celum. 



sinistro brachio superponens 

arculura. filo flexum 

tenebat in dextera 

quern [quasi] super uiellam 

trahens per lignum, 

et ad hoc gestus representans 

idoneos gallice cantabat 

de Domino. 

Terminabatur tota 

hec tripudia frequenter in lacrimas 

et in passionis Christi 

compassionem hie iubilus soluebatur. 

Inde hie sanctus continue 
trahebat suspiria et ingeminatis 
gemitibus inferiorum que 
in manu erant oblitus 
suspendebatur ad celum. 



For the first line of Sp. S 93 see 2 Celano 13, where 
we read that Francis quasi spiritu ebrius lingua gallica 
petit oleum et acquirit. 

No one contests the charm and interest of the 
picture here conjured up : whoever first recorded it, 
it is evidently (as Thomas of Gelano says) a picture 
drawn from life. But the language is the stilted jargon 
of Brother Thomas, not the unadorned style of the 
writer of the Intentio^ 

1 Here are some parallels : Spiritu ebrius (i Cel 56 post med.) tripudiant 
... in lacrimis (i Cel 124 init.), tripudiat . . . suspiria trahens . . . inge- 
minans (i Cel 125 fin.") ; defixis in terra oculis mente celo herebat (i Cel 41 fin.), 
suspendebatur multitoties tanta. contemplations dulcedine ut . . . (2 Cel 98 init.), 
totos rapiebat auditores ad celica (2 Cel. 107 med.) ; ebiilliebat foras (i Cel 115 
post init.), feruore spiritus bulliens . . . iam in celestis regni summa republica 
uersabatur (2 Cel 95 med.). It is also worth note that the two fratres Francigene 
of Sp. S 34 are called fratres Gallicos in 2 Cel 181. 

37 



ST. FRANCIS 



As long as it was only a question of the comparison 
of the Speculum Perfections with 2 Celano it seemed 
impossible to account for the double phenomena of 
literary difference and resemblance. It was indeed 
noteworthy that the second class, like that of Sp. S 
93 = 2 Cel 127, had no parallels in the documents 
taken by Lemmens from Isld 1/73. But now we have 
in addition Delorme's text from Perugia. It falls into 
five long sections, distinguished partly by large 
initials, but chiefly by their relation to 2 Celano. 
The last three (C D and E) are not derived from 
2 Celano : the parallel texts in 2 Cel are here inferior and 
derivative, and the language of C D and E contains 
none of the Celanese rhetoric. In the twenty stories 
grouped under B, on the other hand, the Celanese 
rhetoric is always present and the relative order of 
2 Cel is almost uninterruptedly preserved : in other 
words, this section of the Perugia text (nos. 22-41) 
must be regarded as a set of extracts from 2 Celano. 
Section A is more mixed: 8-19 of Lemmens' 
Speculum followed by the greater part of the Verba 
appear, but there are also three (or four) chapters, the 
ultimate origin of which seem to be 2 Celano?- Finally, 
while C D and E are all independent of 2 Celano, 
section D has a peculiar characteristic of its own. This 
section (nos. 59-91) has no parallels in Isld 1/73 ; its 
parallels in 2 Celano and Sp. S show both these 
documents to be, for this section, inferior and 

1 See Note I at the end of this Paper. 



THE STUDY OF THE SOURCES 



derivative ; and a notably large proportion of the 
stories contained in it has a connexion with the 
Valley of Rieti. 

I have ventured elsewhere * to embody the historical 
and literary deductions which these bald bibliographical 
statements seem to me to imply. Let us turn our 
minds to 1246, to the situation indicated in the Letter 
of Leo, Rufino and Angelo prefixed to the Legend 
that bears their names. Even though 3 Socii be a later 
compilation, the situation in the Prefatory Letter is 
fully borne out by the Preface to 2 Celano : the only 
specific fact for which the Preface to 3 Socii is here 
being used is that Leo was at Greccio near Rieti in the 
summer of 1246 in close association with Angelo, i.e. 
Angelo Tancredi the Companion of S. Francis, himself 
a citizen of Rieti. It is a moment of great importance 
in the history of the Order. The Chapter-General has 
ordered that such of the wonderful deeds of Francis as 
have not yet been collected and written down in the 
existing Legend, i.e. in i Celano , shall be sent in to 
Headquarters at Assisi. Of those who really had first- 
hand reminiscences to contribute, who had more to 
write than Brother Leo ? Almost alone among the 
intimates of Francis he was a literary person. Caesarius 
of Speyer, who had helped Francis with the " First 
Rule" in 1221, was dead; Brother Giles did not 
write, nor did Masseo, so far as we know. Rufino 
always had a difficulty in expressing himself, according 

1 Revue d'Histoire franciscaine for October, 1925. 

39 



ST. FRANCIS 



to the tradition, and Angelo was a soldier rather than 
a clerk. 

Leo, on the other hand, was a clerk in every sense 
of the word. He wrote a beautiful clerkly hand, which 
was no mean part of the stock-in-trade of a poor author 
in the days before printing. And he had already 
published the Intentio Regule and some form at least 
of the Verba Francisci. 1 We see from these writings 
that he was definitely of the party of the Strict Obser- 
vance. Nevertheless it must always be borne in mind 
that he was not a rebel. He may indeed have protested 
in an insubordinate manner against the methods of 
Elias for collecting money to build the church of San 
Francesco, but he died in peace and honour at Assisi 
and his relic, the autograph Benediction written for 
him by Francis himself, is preserved still in the Sacro 
Convento, the citadel of the Conventuals. 

Well, what has Leo to send to Crescentius ? The 
Letter of the Three Companions talks about special 
narratives, not written down in the official Legend. 
This is indeed so probable in itself, that it does not 
need the Letter to make us believe it. I think it not 
unlikely that he sent a copy of the Infentio, neatly 
written out in his fine legible script, but even if he did 
not do so on this occasion it is likely that a copy was 
already to be found in the book-case of the Brothers 
at Assisi. Had Leo already written down and circu- 
lated other tales about S. Francis ? Very likely ; no 

1 See Note I at the end of this Paper. 
40 



THE STUDY OF THE SOURCES 



doubt a good many are represented by those parts of 
Lemmens' Speculum which really do go back to Leo. 
These tales were also appropriate to send to Assisi in 
1 246, for they were not in i Celano : we may suppose, 
in other words, that Leo sent to Assisi a fair copy of 
what he had already written in separate Rolls and 
Notes. But these things did not exhaust his remini- 
scences or those of his old friends Angelo and Rufino. 
In Leo's packet for Crescentius there ought to have 
been something fresh, things that had not been written 
down before. If we are to identify this packet with 
anything that still survives, it must contain some things 
which do not appear to have been generally known even 
to those who appeal to Leo's testimony : in more 
concrete terms I mean some things which are not in 
Isid 1/73, or Ubertino, or Angelo Clareno. 

It seems to me that Section D of the Perugia Legend 
published by Delorme is just such a collection of 
anecdotes as will satisfy these exacting conditions. 
Except to those who, as we shall see presently, may 
have actually seen the autograph of Leo these stories 
are unknown : in so far as they are known to-day they 
are known through what Leo sent to Assisi on this 
occasion. Moreover, as was stated just now, a large 
number of this set of tales are concerned with the 
Valley of Rieti, with Rieti itself, with Fonte Colombo, 
with Greccio. The first of them, Per 59, a tale which 
shows special acquaintance with the topography of 
Rieti, seems to be derived directly from Brother 



ST. FRANCIS 



Angelo. 1 How well all this fits in with the Letter 
prefixed to 3 Socii \ 

Brother Leo's packet arrived safely at Assisi : we 
know this, because Thomas of Celano made such 
extensive use of it in what we call 2 Celano. Thomas 
was chosen by Crescentius, as before he had been 
chosen by Elias, to be the historiographer of the Order, 
to arrange the mass of material sent to Headquarters 
into an orderly Legend. 

A good deal must have been received besides Leo's 
packet, some of it good, some bad, much (no doubt) 
indifferent. 2 Many illiterate Friars must have sent in 
scrawls that required to be copied out by Celano (or 
his assistants, if he had any), before they could be 
fairly considered. Other Friars must have trudged to 
Assisi to testify by word of mouth. Their depositions 
had to be taken down. What outward form the depo- 
sitions took we can only guess : in our days there 
would be a collection of filed Note-Books : Ubertino 
speaks of Leo's Rolls and Notes, but these may have 
been writings executed at different times under varying 
conditions. In the 1 3th century, in the work-room of 
so methodical a writer as Thomas of Celano, I think we 
may at least imagine a set of uolumina^ of quires, which 
at some later time might be sewn together and bound, 
like the several parts of cod. 338, which consists of 
five distinct constituents. 

1 The same may be said of Per 91. 

2 See the separate Note on z Cel 117 at the end of this Paper. 

4 2 



THE STUDY OF THE SOURCES 

The result of all that was sent in to Crescentius was 
the Legenda Secunda of Thomas of Celano. This is 
all that was * published,' i.e. paraphrased by Thomas 
and copied out on vellum and multiplied. But to 
produce such a literary work from the material sent in, 
some such a collection of uolumma containing a good 
part of the material written out fair was almost necessary, 
and in any case that which Leo sent in would make 
several uolumtna. Unless these were deliberately de- 
stroyed they would remain where Celano put them 
when he had done with them, i.e. in armario jratrum 
de Assisio, in the book-cupboard of the Sacro Convento, 
as indeed Ubertino says in his Declaration of 13 1 1. 1 

In the same year as Ubertino was writing this 
Declaration at Avignon, the scribe of the Perugia 
Legend was making a great collection of Franciscan 
Bulls. He could not in those days consult Wadding 
or Sbaralea or Potthast as we do ; he would have to go 
to Headquarters, to the library of the Sacro Convento, 
to make up the set, even if some of the well-known 
ones had already been collected together. 2 We must 
therefore think of the scribe of Delorme's MS as working 
in the Library at Assisi. There he would doubtless 
find a copy of 2 Celano, a work which does not seem 
to me to have been very widely known in ancient times. 
It is certainly a work of great interest, and our scribe 

1 Declaratio of 1311 : to be found e.g. in Sabatier's ed. of the Speculum, 
p. cl. 

2 The original Bull of Honorius has always been kept there ever since 
S. Francis's death (Papini, Storia de S. Francesco, p. 123, note). 

43 



ST. FRANCIS 



did well to copy out of it the 20 chapters that make 
up Delorme's B, i.e. Per 22-41. But besides the 
finished digest which Brother Thomas had made of the 
material sent to Assisi in 1246 our scribe interested 
himself in the uolumina that Leo had contributed. 
What he extracted from these make up Delorme's 
C D and E, of which C and E consist of tales which 
are known independently and so may be supposed to 
have been published or circulated by Leo independently 
of the circumstances of 1 246. Section D, on the other 
hand, consists of tales which there is some reason to 
think were not written down before 1246 ; if they 
were known at all before Delorme's discovery of the 
Perugia MS it was through the use Celano made of 
Leo's tales (2 Ce/), or through the use made of the 
Perugia MS itself (Sp. S). As for Delorme's Section A 
it is difficult to be certain, as Fr. Delorme himself 
avers : 1 my own conjecture would be that it repre- 
sents an earlier smaller collection of anecdotes about 
S. Francis supplementary to the Legenda Maior of 
Bonaventura, perhaps already put together in a uolumen 
belonging to the Assisi Library. 2 

It is of course possible that what we read in the 
MS at Perugia was not first collected by the scribe of 
that MS in 1311. He must have gone to Assisi for his 
Bulls, but it is conceivable that the Legenda anttqua 
which he has transcribed was the copy of a volume in 
which these pieces had already been put together. 

1 Delorme in A F H xv, p. 98 f . 2 See separate Note. 

44 



THE STUDY OF THE SOURCES 

But what of the Speculum Perfection}* ? What 
light does the MS at Perugia throw upon the way in 
which it was compiled ? Here the essential fact is 
Delorme's Section B. This section is a set of extracts 
from 2 Celano, but they all are given in Sabatier's 
Speculum^ though not one of them appears in Lemmens' 
Speculum. What is more, in Per these chapters form a 
compact group by themselves and they are given in 
the order that they come in 2 Celano (with a couple of 
exceptions) ; in Sp. S, on the other hand, they are 
scattered up and down the work, in inextricable mixture 
with chapters that are certainly not derived from 
2 Celano. Why does Sp. S include these Celanese 
chapters and no others . ?1 The answer must surely 
be that Sp. S is a rearrangement and reissue of Per 
itself, or else Per is a faithful copy of a volume of which 
Sp. S is a rearrangement and reissue. 

Here the colophon of the Ognissanti MS becomes 
of fresh interest. If the Perugia Legend was made in 
1311, the Ognissanti MS asserts that the Speculum 
Perfections was made in 1317 (or 1318). The con- 
tents of the two works are almost identical, but the 
arrangement is different. The outstanding character- 
istic of the order in Per is that the earlier works which 
are used remain grouped together, the Intentio and the 
Verba of Leo, the extracts from 2 Celano^ are found 
in solid chunks ; in Sp. S, on the other hand, everything 
is grouped according to its subject-matter, and the 

1 Except, of course, the four doubtful chapters from Per A. 

45 



ST. FRANCIS 



Celanese chapters are found separately side by side with 
the Leonine ones. It seems to be impossible to avoid 
Fr. Delorme's conclusion that Sp. S is a literary work 
later than Per and formed from it by rearrangement 
and occasional rewriting of single words and phrases. 
This being so, the date 1317, given in the Ognissanti 
MS, seems to me the earliest we can place it, but I 
do not see why we should place it any later. The 
early years of the i4th century were just the very 
time when the zeal of the Spirituals was finding its 
outlet in literary work. Ubertino da Casale in 1305 
had shown them the way and Angelo Clareno was 
following in his steps. While these great champions of 
the ideal of Evangelical Poverty were disputing at the 
Papal Court the cause could be served less contro- 
versially, and as effectively, by collecting and arranging 
what had been written down by the Companions of 
Francis, so that it could be displayed as the mirror of 
what a Brother Minor ought to be. 

The Speculum Perfection}* as edited by Sabatier is 
an admirable work. One tale is told after another, 
some we may suppose well known to almost every 
Umbrian Friar, others not so widely spread though all 
are of the same spirit, until the Portrait of Francis 
moves and smiles and suffers before our eyes. For it 
tends to follow the natural order, the order of events. 
Enough is told us of the early days to make the reader 
feel their charm and ^lan y but in the main it is a Portrait 
of Francis from the time of the promulgation of the 



THE STUDY OF THE SOURCES 



Rule in 1223 to his death. Yet in the eyes of all the 
Friars it had two serious defects. There is, after all, 
very little about those early days, and there is very 
little about the Stigmata. For a mirror of Francis's 
perfection these two things surely were required in 
the 1 4th century. They were very soon supplied. 
I do not think the Speculum Perjectionis was compiled 
to complete 3 Socii, but it does seem to me likely that 
the Legend of the Three Companions was compiled 
to complete the Speculum. It is found in close con- 
nexion with the Speculum in several of the oldest MSS., 
e.g. 'Isid 1/25 in Rome and the Ognissanti MS at 
Florence. Together the two works form an almost 
complete Vita Francisci. 

No doubt it was in the same circles and about the 
same time that the collection of documents and attesta- 
tions dealing with the annual Indulgence of the Portiun- 
cula on Aug. 2 was made. A little later comes the 
Actus Francisci, which is the Latin original of the 
Fioretti : this collection is evidently later than 1322, 
for it must have been made after the death of John of 
La Verna, who died in that year. 

It was necessary to indicate the position of these 
works, because they were used in the compilation known 
as Fac secundum exemplar, which itself is the direct 
parent of the printed Speculum Vitae. Late as this 
compilation is, it nevertheless contains traces of the 
Perugia Legend. The chief MSS in which it is found 
are preceded by a preface which quotes Exod xxv 40 

47 



ST. FRANCIS 



(Fac secundum exemplar) and goes on to say that what 
follows is a collection of things not contained in Bona- 
ventura. The author says he had collected them when 
a student in Avignon, where also the Minister-General 
had had readings during meals de legenda ueteri to show 
that it was " true, useful, authentic and good," * and 
he further explains that his tales are taken from (i) a 
book belonging to Frederick, a friar who was Archbishop 
of Riga from 1304-1341 but resided chiefly at Avignon, 
(2) an ' old legend ' that was read at Avignon, (3) writ- 
ings and lives of Companions of Francis, (4) some 
things about S. Antony and John of La Verna. 

When we come to examine Vat 4354, which seems 
to be the most ancient MS of Fac secundum, we find 
that (3) with (4) means the Actus (i.e. practically the 
Fioretti), and that (i) seems to be the Speculum Per- 
jcctionis. About three-quarters of Sabatier's text is 
there, arranged in the peculiar order of Sp. S. The 
remainder therefore of Fac secundum we may suppose 
to have been extracted from the * old legend ' read at 
Avignon when the compiler was a student. Archbishop 
Frederick is not called ' of blessed memory,' so we may 
suppose this Preface to have been written before his 
death in 1341. But there is no reason to suppose that 
the compiler was still at Avignon, or that when he was 
writing matters were particularly favourable for militant 
Spirituals. 

1 It will not be forgotten that the Latin is ambiguous ; it may mean ' the 
old Legend ' or ' an old Legend.' At least this passage does not assert that 
there was only one old Legend, so called. 



THE STUDY OF THE SOURCES 

It has been too often assumed that documents of 
the 1 4th century which show zeal in recording tales of 
the early days of Franciscan poverty were all written or 
compiled by zealous militant Spirituals. The Intentio, 
no doubt, is written in the opposite sense to the policy 
of Quo elongati (1235), but it is not exactly militant. 
It says that strict poverty was the earnest desire of 
Francis for all his Friars, but that he yielded a little to 
the representations of the Ministers, though he was 
determined to practise it himself to the end of his days. 
It shows that the Testament was no mere afterthought 
of a dying man, but the expression of a life-long con- 
viction. At the same time Leo does not incite his 
readers to disobey the Papal ruling. In any case the 
compiler of the Perugia Legend has a different stand- 
point from that of the Intentio. He transcribes Sp. L 
44 (= Sp. S 50), in which Francis expresses his dislike 
of obtaining Papal privileges, but his book opens with 
a series of more than 160 Bulls, . which take up con- 
siderably more than half the volume. The Perugia 
text cannot have been compiled by a practising Spiritual 
such as Angelo Clareno. 

What is of direct interest to us here is that traces 
of the Perugia collection appear in Vat 4354 in the 
chapters that come neither from Sabatier's Speculum 
nor from the Fioretti-literature. Thus 75~8o tell 
the story of the Novice, followed by the words about 
the devils being the castaldi Domini, followed by warning 
against idle words. This corresponds to sections 100, 
E 49 



ST. FRANCIS 



10 1 and 102 of Per, but to Sp. 4 + 71 + 1 1 -f 82,01 
in Lemmens' documents to Int 7-16 followed by 
Sp. 1/35. It is obvious that Vat 4354 must have found 
these chapters put together as they are in the Perugia 
Legend. Other sequences are Vat 4354 70, 71 = Per 
78-9, 72, 73, 74 = Per 51-3, 85, 86 = Per 13, 
87, 88 = Per 21. These sections come from all 
parts of the Perugia Legend except the extracts from 
2 Celano : I venture to think the coincidences in 
arrangement here between it and the compilation found 
in Vat 4354 are useful ad ostendendum earn esse ueram 
uttlem et autenttcam aique bonam^ 

If the final form of the Speculum be later than the 
text from Perugia and dependent on it, what of that 
found in Isid 1/73 and edited by Lemmens in DAF 
vol. ii, pp. 23-84 ? Here we must make a distinction 
at the outset between the value of this text as a whole 
and its preservation in Isid 1/73. The scribe of that 
MS is rather careless, he is capable of writing gioia for 
gloria zndforfe for jr ate, and he sometimes leaves out 
whole sentences by homoeoteleuton. Consequently in- 
ferior texts sometimes preserve the true reading against 
Isid 1/73. But such things are only on the surface. 
What is valuable in Isid -1/73 is the character of the 
sources used, both in the ' Scripta Leonis ' and the 
Speculum (Sp. L). 

In the first place Sp. L contains no chapters taken 
from 2 Celano. Nor is there in it anything corre- 

1 Preface to Fac secundum, quoted in Sabatier's ed. of the Speculum, p. clix. 

5 



THE STUDY OF THE SOURCES 

spending to Per D, i.e. the rather more intimate set 
of reminiscences, which we may suppose never to have 
been written down till 1246, and then not regularly 
published but sent in to Headquarters at Assisi for the 
official historiographer to use. Of course Sp. L is not, 
as a collection, the work of Brother Leo. It only 
claims to have been composed from certain things 
found in the writings of Leo and others. Probably it 
was not used at all by the compiler of Per, but Per 
and Sp. L were independent compilations from Leo's 
rotuli. The divisions or c chunks ' of Sp. L which 
appear in Per will therefore indicate to us more or 
less the limits of these rotuli. 
They are as follows : 

1. Sp. L 1-7. Chiefly about the Franciscan view 

of begging for alms. 

2. 8-1 9. Chiefly about the last days of Francis. 

3. 20-23. Francis and his hard way of life. 

4. 24-33. Miscellaneous. 

5. 34. The last meal of Francis with the 

Brothers. 

6. 35~43* Mainly about poverty and humility. 

7. 44. No privileges for the Friars ! 

Of these No. I may be made of two separate tracts, 
but Nos. 2 and 3 seem to me homogeneous. No. 4 
comes in Per at the beginning of C and is marked by 
a specially large capital, as if it were the beginning of 
a document ; it also begins the extracts De legenda 



ST. FRANCIS 



ueteri beati. Francisci which are found in the second 
part of Istd 1/73 and printed in D A F ii 91-100. 
In any case if we are to attempt to resolve Sp. L into 
its constituents, the external witness of Per must be the 
first thing to be taken into account. 

To sum up the results of this long survey, we find 
that a certain number of primajacie original authorities 
for the Life of Francis are not originals and must be 
used with caution, i Celano remains : we cannot 
directly get behind it, though we may have reserves 
based on our knowledge of the over-great discretion of 
Brother Thomas and his subservience to those in 
immediate authority over him. With 2 Celano it is 
different ; for a large part of the work we possess his 
materials, either directly as in the surviving writings of 
Leo (viz. the Intentio^ the Verb a cc. 1-2, 4-5, and I 
would add at least Sp. L 8-19), or indirectly from the 
collection in the Perugia MS, sections ODE. Of 
these last D appears to be nothing less than the special 
and hitherto unpublished reminiscences which Leo sent 
to Assisi in 1246, the very document to which the 
Letter of the Three Companions refers. 

From these writings of Leo we can have some idea 
of how much Thomas of Celano alters his sources, and 
that he may on the whole be trusted appears from the 
fact that some things which were supposed to have 
been written by his opponents turn out to be his own 
composition. The historical value of what Celano tells 

52 



THE STUDY OF THE SOURCES 



us depends almost entirely on the source he is using : 
where he is using material not derived from Leo there 
is at least one instance in which he appears to have 
been supplied with old hagiographical material in what 
professes to have been a direct reminiscence of Francis. 

3 Socii is a late compilation, and the longer form of 
the Speculum Perfection}* is not an original composition 
but a mere rearrangement of the Perugia Legend. 
Yet each have their special uses. The Speculum is 
composed of such good material that the mere arrange- 
ment of the Perugia material in the new order, with 
the pathetic records of the last days at the end, sets 
Francis before our eyes more vividly than Celano does. 
3 Socii, originally compiled to complete the picture of 
the Saint by giving the tale of the early days and of 
the Stigmata (both passed over almost completely in 
the Speculum)^ has still some historical value, for the 
tales in which 3 Socii is parallel to 2 Celano do not 
appear to be borrowed from 2 Celano direct, but to 
have been taken (like the Perugia Legend) from the 
sources of 2 Celano , i.e. the collection of reminiscences 
sent in to Assisi in 1 246. 

But these reminiscences were not those of Brother 
Leo only, and Leo's reminiscences are all of the nature 
of detached tales and sayings. Angelo Clareno was 
mistaken when he declared Leo to have written a Vita 
Francisci ; what he did was to leave us a wonderful 
series of tales, which supplement the tale told in i Celano, 
but do not supersede it. 

S3 



ST. FRANCIS 



THREE NOTES 

i. On Delorme^ s Section A (= Per 1-21) 

That Section B of the Perugia Legend (= Per 22-41) is, 
as Fr. Delorme maintains, a series of extracts from 2 Celano 
seems to be established beyond all doubt. The two texts 
agree almost word for word, the paragraphs of Per follow the 
order of 2 Celano with only a couple of exceptions at the end 
of the section, and finally most of the paragraphs are marked 
by the peculiar Celanese style. No doubt the material was 
originally supplied to Thomas from elsewhere, but in telling 
his stories he generally impresses upon them his own phrase- 
ology. Sometimes, of course, this is not very markedly the 
case : it might very well be that such-and-such a chapter of 
2 Celano is told wholly in the words of Celano's source, but 
if there be such in this series it will have been from 2 Celano 
that the compiler of the Perugia Legend took it, along with 
all the others. 

The case is rather different with Section A, where Fr. 
Delorme himself seems a little uncertain. A consists now of 
21 divisions and perhaps five or six more have been lost at 
the beginning. Of those that remain, Per 4-13 corresponds 
to Sp. L 8-19 and Per 14 ff corresponds more or less to the 
Ferba Francisci, i.e. to the second work ascribed to Leo in 
Isid 1/73. This work, collection, tract, or 'opuscule,' seems 
to have had a much less fixed content than the Intentio 
Regule. Lemmens divides it into six chapters. In all forms 
it contained I. = Sp. S 12 * I was never a robber of alms ' ; 
2. = Sp. 5 13 ' No property either in special or in com- 
mon ' ; 4. = Sp. S i about Elias and the Ministers and the 
Voice from Heaven ; 5. = Sp. S 68 about Francis at the 
Chapter of the Mats. To this nucleus Angelo Clareno adds 

54 



THE STUDY OF THE SOURCES 



6. = Sp. S 50, Sp. L 44 about Privileges, a section quoted 
also by Ubertino. Isid. 1/73, on the other hand, omits this 
but adds Sp. S 52, 79, 85, and inserts between 2. and .4. the 
Praise of the Rule, numbered by Lemmens as 3. In the 
Perugia Legend we have what corresponds to Sp. S 12, 13, I, 
68, 54, 50, 52, 88, i.e. Clareno's form of the Ferba but with 
three more chapters of the Speculum added at the end. Is it 
not likely that the compiler took them all from the same 
source, that is, from an enlarged form of the Verba ? 

But Sp. S 54 is not the source of Per 18, says Fr. Delorme ; 
the source is 2 Cel 146. I would plead for a suspension of 
judgement in this case. The Celanese style in 2 Cel is not 
very marked : it was a paragraph widely known, occurring 
in the San Antonio MS, no. 45, so that whoever first penned 
it, it may have been taken up by Celano without change. 
All I am suggesting is that the compiler of Per 18-20 took 
these chapters from an extended form of the Verba. Whether 
Per 21 (= Sp. L 34 = Sp. S 88) is from the same source, or 
to be regarded as an isolated fragment from elsewhere, is 
uncertain. 

Of the rest of Per A, it is to be noted that the section 
corresponding to Sp. L 8-19 is all of a piece. It is all really 
concerned with the last days of S. Francis, though the con- 
sideration of the Saint's humility at the end of II leads the 
writer to tell the tale of Francis's humility when preaching 
at Terni ( 12, 13) and of his resigning all his offices in the 
Order ( 14-16). But 17 goes back to the Lady Jacoba 
and ' that dainty preparation,' i.e. the one referred to in 
ii. Thus Per 4-13 (= Sp. L 8-19) is one whole: the 
text of 10 is not quite perfect, as Delorme points out (p. 15), 
but must be supplemented from Little 158. Apart from this, 
these chapters seem to me to be another of Brother Leo's 
* rolls,' probably written about 1235 soon after the death of 

55 



ST. FRANCIS 



Bernard of Quintavalle. Such a Roll or uolumen might very- 
well have been standing on the bookshelf side by side with the 
rest of Leo's ' dossier ' in the Library of the Sacro Convento 
when the compiler of the Perugia Legend was working there 
at his collecton of Franciscan Bulls. 

It should be noted that Fr. Delorme in his Legenda 
Antiqua S. Francisci (Paris, 1926), p. xviii, continues to treat 
the Intentio and the Verba as mere extracts from the longer 
" Old Legend." I still agree with Fr. Lemmens that they 
are earlier independent works, which have been incorporated 
into the Perugia collection. My chief reason is the witness 
of Ubertino and of Angelo Clareno. These champions of 
the Zelanti appeal to what may be called the " Speculum- 
literature " and name Leo as the author, but all their quota- 
tions (enumerated by Delorme, p. xiii f.) come from the 
Intentio and the Verba, not from the rest of the tales. Further, 
Ubertino quotes the Intentio from beginning to end, indi- 
cating where he makes omissions, and at the end says Hucusque 
uerba sancti Leonis : it is difficult not to suppose that he, 
writing in 1305, knew the Intentio as a detached piece, one 
of Leo's Rolls. 

The composition and contents of the Verba present a 
more difficult problem. It seems to me a sort of Appendix 
to the Intentio, and to consist of a fixed nucleus ( 1-2, 4-5), 
to which other pieces were added by Leo himself or by later 
transcribers. The form found in Isid 1/73 which adds Sp. 
S 52, 79, 85, is obviously later than Leo's death, but that 
cannot be said of the form used by Clareno and printed 
by Lemmens. 

Most of the single paragraphs of Per A G D and E were 
penned by Leo, both according to Fr. Delorme's view and 
that advocated in these pages. Where we differ is that Fr. 
Delorme regards them as all strung together by Leo himself, 

56 



Plate III. 




Church of San Francisco, Pisa. 

St. Francis and six scenes from his L,egend. 
Attributed to Ugolino di Tedice (c. 1270-80). 



ST. FRANCIS 



Bernard of Quintavalle, Such a Roll or uolumen might very 
well have been standing on the bookshelf side by side with the 
rest of Leo's ' dossier ' in the Library of the Sacro Convento 
when the compiler of the Perugia Legend was working there 
at his collecton of Franciscan Bulls. 

It should be noted that Fr. Delorme in his Legenda 
Antiqua S. Francisci (Paris, 1926), p. xviii, continues to treat 
the Intentio and the Verba as mere extracts from the longer 
" Old Legend." I still agree with Fr. Lemmens that they 
are earlier independent works, which have been incorporated 
into the Perugia collection. My chief reason is the witness 
of Ubertino and of Angelo Clareno. These champions of 
the Zelanti appeal to what may be called the " Speculum- 
literature " and name Leo as the author, but all their quota- 
tions (enumerated by Delorme, p. xiii f.) come from the 
Intentio and the Verba, not from the rest of the tales. Further, 
Ubertino quotes the Intentio from beginning to end, indi- 
cating where he makes omissions, and at the end says Hucusque 
uerba sancti Leonis : it is difficult not to suppose that he, 
writing in 1305, knew the Intentio as a detached piece, one 
of Leo's Rolls. 

The composition and contents of the Verba present a 
more difficult problem. It seems to me a sort of Appendix 
to the Intentio, and to consist of a fixed nucleus ( 1-2, 4-5), 
to which other pieces were added by Leo himself or by later 
transcribers. The form found in Isid 1/73 which adds Sp. 
S 52, 79, 85, is obviously later than Leo's death, but that 
cannot be said of the form used by Clareno and printed 
by Lemmens. 

Most of the single paragraphs of Per A C D and E were 
penned by Leo, both according to Fr. Delorme's view and 
that advocated in these pages. Where we differ is that Fr. 
Delorme regards them as all strung together by Leo himself, 

56 



Plate III. 




Church of San Francisco, Pisa. 

St. I'ruueis and six scenes from his L,egeml. 
Attributed to Ugolino di Tedice (c. 1270-80). 



THE STUDY OF THE SOURCES 



while I prefer to use Ubertino's language and speak of Leo's 
Rolls and Notes (two of which we know under the names 
Intentio Regule and Verba Francisci), and to regard the 
gathering of them into collections as a work of the generation 
after Leo's death in 1271. 



2. On 2 Celano 117. 

Obviously not all the material put before Thomas of 
Celano in 1246 came from one source, and that source Leo. 
Nor again is it likely that all that was sent in, even if sent in 
good faith, was historical. In such hagiographical collections 
one well-known form of historical error is the ascription to 
one Saint of something that properly belongs to a much earlier 
age, or at any rate to some one else. A good example is the 
story of the Harlot and the Saint who lay down in the burning 
hearth : this is told of S. Francis in Cod. San Antonio 87, 
and repeated in Actus 27, Fioretti 24, but according to 
Thomas of Chantimpre, writing in 1256, the story belongs to 
one John bishop of Pressburg who became a Dominican 
Friar. 

The object of this Note is to suggest that the picturesque 
tale told in 2 Gel 117 is only another form of a much older 
story. Here are the tales. 

The Devil having subjected Francis to the temptation of 
lust, and Francis finding that scourging himself was of no avail 
" he opened the door of his cell and went out into the garden 
and though it was covered with snow he bathed in it naked. 
So filling his hands with snow he made up seven heaps, and 
arranging them before him began to address them all, and 
said ' See, this big one is your wife, and these four two are 
your sons and two your daughters, the other two are the 
servant and the maid that you must have to attend on them. 

57 



ST. FRANCIS 



And make haste (said he) to clothe them all, for they are 
dying of cold. But if anxiety for their many wants annoys 
you be careful to serve One Master.' Thereupon the Devil 
departed in confusion and the Saint returned to his cell 
glorifying God." And Thomas of Celano adds that a certain 
spiritual brother who was then engaged in prayer saw the 
whole scene, it being a clear moonlight night, but the Saint 
having found out afterwards what he had observed was very 
grieved, and commanded him to reveal it to no one so long 
as he, Francis, lived in this world. 

What this spiritual brother saw in the moonlight we can 
read in the tales of the Fathers of the Desert, where indeed 
there is no snow but only sand and mud. In Rosweyd 
496-7 (= Migne, Patrologia Latino. Ixxiii 747) this story is 
told : " There was a certain Brother in the Desert who lived 
in the place called Cellia, and devils fought against him in 
the passion of fornication. So he thought within himself 
saying : ' It is because perchance I ought to work more with 
my hands, so that my carnal sense may be extinguished.' 
Now this Brother was a potter by trade. So he arose and 
fashioned in mud as it were the figure of a woman, and said 
to his thoughts : ' See, there is your wife ; so it is necessary 
for you to add beyond the ordinary to your daily work.' And 
after a few days he made a similar thing of mud and fashioned 
as it were a daughter for himself, and said to his thoughts ; 
* See, your wife has had a daughter ; so it is necessary for 
you to labour more and more still harder that you may be 
able to feed and clothe yourself and your wife and your 
daughter.' And so with overmuch labour he afflicted his 
body, so that he could not any more endure such labour. 
Then he said to his thoughts : ' If you cannot endure this 
overmuch labour neither do you need a wife.' But God 
seeing the fervent decision of his mind in the fight for chastity 

58 



THE STUDY OF THE SOURCES 



took away from him the annoyance of the devils' attacks, 
and he glorified God for the greatness of His grace." 

The same tale is also to be found in the Syriac Apophtbeg- 
mata (Budge, Paradise, p. 772, no. 553). 

The story as given in 2 Celano 117 has a charm and vivid- 
ness which recalls the Fioretti, but it is not told elsewhere of 
S. Francis. Nor do I think the moral that working for a wife 
and family involved more trouble than it was worth is truly 
Franciscan. 

3. On the Codex of S. Antonio at Rome. 

This MS has been fully described by the competent pen 
of Fr. Livarius Oliger in Archivum Franciscanum Historicum, 
vol. xii, pp. 321-400. It is a I4th cent, text, containing 
Bonaventura (adorned with very curious miniatures), the 
Portiuncula Indulgence documents, and a Collection of 
Franciscan anecdotes. Most of these are well known, but 
the special merit of the S. Antonio codex is that it contains 
a few quite unknown from other sources. Thus 59^ is, 
so far as I know, our only ancient surviving authority for the 
very interesting tale of Brother Stephen * when he was cook 
to S. Francis. 

The Praise of the Good Nine Friars will be found in 47 : 
" Blessed Francis used to say, He would be a good Brother 
Minor who had the faith of Brother Bernard with his love of 
poverty, the charity of Brother Angela, the devout feeling 
and speech of Brother Masseo, the lofty mind of Brother 
Giles, the continuous prayer of Brother Rufino, the patience 
of Brother Juniper, the bodily and spiritual strength of 

1 Quoted and annotated by G. G. Coulton in The Beginnings of Christianity, 
vol. ii, p. 441, from Wadding's Annals, but it is possible that Wadding got his 
information from the Codex. The story is also preserved in an old Italian 
version (See Minocchi, Leggenda antica, Florence, 1905). 

59 



ST. FRANCIS 



Brother John de Laudibus y who at that time was the strongest 
of men, the charity of Brother Roger, the carefulness of 
Brother Lucido, who would not stay in any place more than 
about a month, but as soon as a place pleased him went away 
to another, saying ' We have not here an abiding city or 
dwellings, but in heaven.' ' : 

Very likely ' charity ' as applied to Angelo Tancredi 
should rather be ' courtesy (curialitatem), but otherwise 
this seems to me to be the original, from which Chap. 85 of 
Sabatier's Speculum has been expanded to include Brother 
Leo. 

Two other tales from the Cod. S. Antonio seem worth 
quoting here for their intrinsic merits. In 72 we read : 
" Brother Theobald said he saw, when once S. Francis was 
preaching to the people at Trevi, a certain donkey, very 
strong and untamed, frightened every one by running among 
the people in the market-place. And when he saw it could 
not be captured by any one and held S. Francis said : * Brother 
donkey, stand quiet and let me preach to the people.' On 
hearing this immediately the donkey put its head between 
its legs and to every one's astonishment stood in great silence. 
And blessed Francis, in order that men might not take notice 
of a miracle so stupendous began to say comic things to make 
them laugh." 

There is plenty of testimony to the fact that Francis was 
one of those who have a strange power over animals, but what 
makes this story so noteworthy is the detail at the end about 
his making jokes to prevent the crowd making too much of 
the occurrence. 

The other story, a most picturesque example of Francis's 
manner of speech, is as follows ( 54) : " Brother Leo, the 
companion of blessed Francis, said that there was a certain 
Brother whose holiness was such that he seemed like a new 

60 



THE STUDY OF THE SOURCES 



Apostle, but at last he was tempted and left the Order. In 
the world also, after he had left the Order he showed such 
ripeness of character that even then he seemed to approach 
apostolical excellence. And when one day Brother Leo and 
some other Brethren were going on a certain way with blessed 
Francis the question was proposed by the Brethren in the 
Saint's presence why the aforesaid Brother had left the Order. 
And he answered : 1 1 will give a lecture and ask myself some 
questions, answering them, I mean, and solving them ; let 
no one speak to me till I finish.' And he began to say ' Humi- 
lity ! ' two or three times ' Chastity ! ' ' Abstinence ! ' 

* Poverty ! ' And thus he named many virtues one by one, 
each one several times. And with each he would say to 
himself ' Do you know this one well ? ' and answer 1 1 do.' 
But at the end of the lecture he said several times * Fear 1 ' 
And when he said ' Do you know this one ? ' he answered 

* No.' And again he called ' Fear ! ' repeating it several 
times. And when he asked himself c Do you know this one ? ' 
he answered ' No.' And he called again ' Fear ! ' And in 
the end he managed to answer c I do ! ' And he added : 
6 It's no use for a man to heap up virtues without Fear, which 
few have, so that it is learned with difficulty,' and he ended 
by saying ' For want of Fear that virtuous Brother fell and 
has left the Order.' " 



ST. FRANCIS AND DANTE 

PROFESSOR EDMUND G. GARDNER, LITT.D., F.B.A. 



Ill 

ST. FRANCIS AND DANTE 



I FEEL that I cannot more fittingly open this course of 
lectures in commemoration of the seventh centenary of 
St. Francis of Assisi than by quoting a passage from the 
message which the head of the Italian National Govern- 
ment, Benito Mussolini, has addressed to the represen- 
tatives of Italy abroad : 

" II piu alto genio alia poesia, con Dante ; il piu 
audace navigatore agli oceani, con Colombo ; la mente 
piu profonda alle arti e alia scienza, con Leonardo ; 
ma I'ltalia, con San Francesco, ha dato anche il piu 
santo dei santi al Cristianesimo e aU'umanita." 

It is well perhaps, even during this centenary, to 
remember the words of one who was likewise a lover 
of the poverello of Assisi, Thomas a Kempis : " Do not 
question or dispute concerning the merits of the Saints, 
as to who is more holy than another, or who greater 
in the kingdom of heaven." 1 Yet we may assuredly 
claim that, among the Saints, St. Francis is the most 
perfect and characteristic fruit of the religious genius 
of mediaeval Italy, as St. Louis and St. Joan of mediaeval 

1 De Imitations Cbristi, iii. 58. 
F 65 



ST. FRANCIS 



France, St. Ignatius Loyola and St. Teresa of sixteenth- 
century Spain. And with St. Francis, the national 
saint, stands Dante, the national poet, who so profoundly 
felt his influence, and so wonderfully interpreted his 
spirit : 

" Degno e die, dov'e Pun, 1'altro s'induca ; 
si che, com'elli ad una militaro, 
cosi la gloria loro insieme luca." 1 

Their names and their work are indissolubly linked ; 
the verus paupertatis amator, the vir praedicans tustittam. 
Dante himself in the noblest of those lyrical poems 
of his which preceded the Divina Commedia adapts a 
spiritual experience allegorically reported of St. Francis 
to a moment of his own inner life : the moment, per- 
haps, in which he realised his mission. It is the legend 
or allegory told by Thomas of Celano, somewhat 
elaborated by St. Bonaventura, and painted by Sassetta 
in the most beautiful of all Franciscan pictures of 
how the Saint, on his way to Siena, in the plain between 
Campiglia and San Quirico, was met by three poor 
women, " mulieres pauperculae," who offered a new 
salutation : " Bene veniat domina paupertas." " And, 
when he heard this, the true lover of poverty was rilled 
with unspeakable joy, for no salutation from men would 
he have received so gladly as that which these gave 
him." When they disappeared, the friars, his com- 
panions, deemed that some mystical thing was signified 

1 Par. xii. 34-36. 

66 



ST. FRANCIS AND DANTE 



concerning the holy man, and that they represented 
Chastity, Obedience, and Poverty, " which shone out in 
equal form in the man of God, albeit he chose rather to 
glory in the privilege of Poverty, whom he was wont 
to call now his Mother, now his .Bride, now his 
Lady." 1 

Such allegorical picturings, and there are many in 
mediaeval literature, in which a mystery is played by 
three figures, probably hark back to the passage in 
Genesis (xviii. 1-2), where the Lord appeared unto 
Abraham as "he sat in the tent-door in the heat of the 
day ; and he looked, and, lo, three men stood by him ; 
and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the 
tent-door." Richard of St. Victor interprets the tent 
as " the habitation of the human mind," and the running 
out to meet the Lord " the excess of the human mind, 
through which it is rapt above itself into the mysteries 
of divine contemplation." 2 In composing his canzone, 
Tre donne inform al cor ml son venute^ Dante may well 
have had as model also a romanza of Giraut de Borneil, 
but the influence of the Franciscan allegory is un- 
mistakable. 3 Here, too, three women appear around 
Dante's heart ; that is, to his inner sight ; and they 

1 Bonaventura, Legenda maior, vii. 6. Cf. Thomas of Celano, Legenda 
secunda (ed. P. Edouard d'Alenjon), (ii) Ix. 93. 

2 Benjamin maior, v. 8. 

8 Rime, ed. M. Barbi (Testo critico), civ ; Oxford Dante, ed. P. Toynbee, 
Canz. xx. Cf. F. Torraca, La canzone delle tre donne, in his Nuovi studi danteschi 
(Naples, 1921) ; E. G. Gardner, Notes on the Lyrical Poetry of Dante, in Modern 
Language Review, vol. xix. pp. 310-312. 

6 7 



ST. FRANCIS 



are poorer of aspect than the " mulieres pauperculae " 
who had been the visitants of St. Francis : 

" Ciascuna par dolente e sbigottita, 
come persona discacciata e stanca, 
cui tutta gente manca 
e cui vertute ne belta non vale. 
Tempo fu gia nel quale, 
secondo il lor parlar, furon dilette ; 
or sono a tutti in ira ed in non cale." l 

Their leader is " discinta e scalza " ; " povera, vedi, a 
panni ed a cintura." But they are no longer Poverty 
with Chastity and Obedience, for the times require 
more active virtues from him who would be their 
reformer : " ut utiliter mundo pervigilem." 2 The 
Franciscan visitants are transformed into Justice (Drit- 
tura), and her spiritual offspring, Natural Justice and 
Legal Justice ; and, when Love who is lord of Dante's 
heart takes up the word and announces the ultimate 
triumph of right, the same joy fills the poet's mind as 
had filled that of St. Francis at the salutation of Lady 
Poverty : 

" E io, die ascolto nel parlar divino 
consolarsi e dolersi 
cosi alti dispersi, 
1'essilio che m'e dato, onor mi tegno." 

The apparition of Drittura before the heart of which 

1 Cf. the words about Lady Poverty in Thomas of Celano, Legenda secunda, 
(ii) xxv. 55 : " Hanc Filio Dei familiarem attendens, iam iamque toto orbe 
repulsam studet charitate perpetua desponsare." Also Sacrum Commercium 
(ed. E. Alvisi, p. 20) : " Cunctis viventibus odiosa non modicum existebas 
et omnes te fugiebant, et prout poterant effugabant." 

2 Monarchia } i. I. 

68 



ST. FRANCIS AND DANTE 



Love is lord will lead naturally to the claim to be " vir 
praedicans iustitiam," in the letter to the friend at 
Florence refusing to return to the city under dishonour- 
ing conditions. Justice becomes for Dante what Poverty 
had been for Francis of Assisi. 

II 

It was nearly thirty-nine years after the death of 
St. Francis when Dante was born in 1265. The last 
survivor of the original group of twelve companions, 
Egidio, the blessed Giles of Assisi, had died three years 
before (1262). St. Bonaventura was minister-general 
of the Order, the seventh in succession from the death 
of St. Francis, his immediate predecessor, the blessed 
John of Parma, having been compelled to abdicate in 
1257 ; he was engaged in his hopeless task of imposing 
a via media upon the brethren which should at once 
recall the one faction to the observance of the rule and 
check the dangerous zeal of the other. With the same 
reconciliatory purpose he had written his own life of 
St. Francis, the Legenda major, in 1260, and in 1266 
the year after Dante's birth the chapter-general at 
Paris had decreed the destruction of the earlier lives or 
legends. Two of the earliest followers and closest 
associates of St. Francis were still living : Ruffino, the 
kinsman perhaps of St. Clare, he of whom the Seraphic 
Father used to say that he had been canonised in this 
life by Christ, and Leone, " Brother Leo," the " peco- 
rella di Dio," the, Saint's secretary, special confidant, 

69 



ST. FRANCIS 



and most loved spiritual son. They died in 1270 and 
1271 respectively. Bonaventura himself died in 1274, 
the year in which Dante first saw Beatrice. There still 
lived if the generally accepted identification is right 
another of those who had been with Francis from the 
earliest days of the Order, one whom Dante was to see 
by the side of Bonaventura in the Paradlso : Illuminato 
of Rieti. 

In a famous passage of the Inferno, Dante repre- 
sents himself as following Virgil in Franciscan fashion 
through one of the circles of Hell : 

" Taciti, soli, sanza compagnia 

n'andavam 1'un dinanzi e 1'altro dopo, 
come frati minor vanno per via." x 

He has previously spoken of wearing the cord, with 
which he had once thought to subdue the leopard of 
sensuality : 

" Io avea una corda intorno cinta, 
e con essa pensai alcuna volta 
prender la lonza a la pelle dipinta." a 

Nevertheless, there is no reliable evidence of any 
direct connection between Dante and the Franciscan 
Order. The statement of his fourteenth-century com- 
mentator, Francesco da Buti, that the poet became a 
Franciscan novice in his youth, but returned to the 
world before making his profession, is probably no 
more than an attempt to explain the wearing of this 
cord, which is presently taken off and given to Virgil 

1 Inf. xxiii. 1-3. a Inf. xvi. 106-108. 

70 



ST. FRANCIS AND DANTE 



to cast into the abyss. 1 The tradition that he was in 
later life a Franciscan tertiary, and was buried in the 
Franciscan habit, seems to date at the earliest only from 
the end of the fifteenth century, and must be regarded 
as unproved, though not in any way impossible. 2 But 
the Franciscan influence upon Dante is none the less 
deep and penetrating. He tells us in the Convivio 
that, in his quest of philosophy after the death of 
Beatrice, he frequented " le scuole de li religiosi." 3 
Though, on the theological and philosophical side, he 
unquestionably drew more from Aquinas, his " buono 
frate Tommaso d'Aquino," than from Bonaventura, 
the latter's contribution was not small, while the spirit 
of St. Francis himself has inspired many a motive and 
episode in the sacred poem. 

Two motives not, indeed, exclusively Franciscan, 
but supremely exemplified in the teaching and practice 
of St. Francis run from the Vita Nuova to the Para- 
dtso : the conception of the courtesy of God, on the 
one hand, and, on the other, of humility as the supreme 
and crowning virtue, after love, of the spiritual life. 

We read, in the Fioretti, that St. Francis on one 
occasion was profoundly moved by the courtesy of a 
certain nobleman, and said to his companion : " Know, 
dearest brother, that courtesy is one of the attributes 
of God, who gives His sun and His rain to the just and 

1 Inf. xvi. 109-114. 

2 Cf. the present writer, Dante and the Mystics, pp. 199-201, 

3 Conv. ii. 12 (13). 

7 1 



ST. FRANCIS 



to the unjust for courtesy ; and courtesy is sister of 
charity, and she quenches hatred and preserves love. 
And because I have recognised so great a divine virtue 
in this good man, I would gladly have him as com- 
panion." The story may or may not be precise 
history, but we can scarcely doubt that the phrase 
la cortesia $ una delle proprieta di Dio, or, in its Latin 
form, curialitas est una de proprietattbus Dei must be 
taken as an authentic saying of St. Francis. 1 And the 
Franciscan legend is full of this virtue of " curialitas " 
or " cortesia." Thomas of Celano says of the Saint 
himself that he was " curialissimus," and, in the 
Legend of the Three Companions, we read : " Erat 
tamen quasi naturaliter curialis in moribus et in verbis." 
When St. Francis compels Bernardo da Quintavalle in 
the name of holy obedience to tread three times upon 
him, his faithful follower fulfils the command " as 
courteously as he could " : " quanto pote il piii cortese- 
mente." Among the many faults that Fra Salimbene 
imputes to Brother Elias is lack of " curialitas" in dealing 
with those under him : "A curialitate humana etiam 



1 Fioretti di San Francesco, cap. xxxvii. " Les paroles si originales de saint 
Frai^ois sur la courtoisie de Dieu," as M. Sabatier well says. The Latin 
original of this chapter of the Fioretti, which was lacking in M. Sabatier's 
edition of the Actus beati Francisci et Sociorum eius (Paris, 1902), has been 
found and published by A. G. Little, Description of a Franciscan Manuscript 
formerly in the Phillipps Library, in Collectanea, Franciscana (Aberdeen, 1914), 
pp. 41-43. " Curialitas enim, f rater karissime, est una de proprietatibus Dei, 
qui solem suum et pluviam suam et omnia super iustos et iniustos curialiter 
administrat. Est enim curialitas ordinata soror caritatis et extinctrix odii et 



conservatrix amoris." 



7 2 



ST. FRANCIS AND DANTE 



habetur, quod proximus diligi debet. Caritas enim et 
curialitas sorores sunt." x 

And with this we cannot but associate Dante's own 
emphasis upon cortesia. In the Vita Nuova, not only 
do we hear of the " ineffabile cortesia " of Beatrice 
(where, perhaps, the poet is merely following the 
troubadours and his own lyrical predecessors), but the 
Blessed Virgin is "la donna della cortesia," and God 
Himself "Sire della cortesia." 2 There is a passage 
in the Convivio where Dante says " cortesia e onestade 
e tutt'uno," and we know that for him, as fbr Augustine 
and Aquinas, onestade, honestas, has frequently the 
sense of spiritual beauty. 3 In the Divina Commedia, 
God the " awersario d'ogni male " was " cortese " 
to ./Eneas, in allowing his descent into the lower world 
for the foundation of Rome and her Empire ; Caccia- 
guida blesses the Holy Trinity for the grace vouchsafed 
to Dante, " che nel mio seme se' tanto cortese" ; and 
Beatrice speaks of God forgiving sin " per sua cortesia." 
Virgil is " anima cortese mantovana." Indeed, " cor- 
tesia " is the note of all that second canto of the Infer no ^ 
which is the preparation for the poet's spiritual pil- 
grimage ; a note that is repeated throughout the 
Purgafono, where the Angels utter " cortesi inviti," and 



1 Thomas of Celano, Legenda -prima, (i) vii. 17 ; Legenda trium Sociorum y 
ed. P. P. Marcellino da Civezza e Teofilo Domenichelli, p. 8 ; Fioretti iii ; 
Salimbene, Cronica fratris Salimbene de Adam Ord. Min., ed. O. Holder-Egger, 
pp. 113-115. 2 V.N. iii, xii, xlii. 

3 Conv. ii. 10 (n). Cf. Conv. iii. 15 ; De Vulgari Eloquentia, i. 1 8, ii. 2 ; 
Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II. ii., q. 145, a. ^ ; Liber Sa-pientiae^vn, II. 

73 



ST. FRANCIS 



the souls who are reforming the image of God within 
themselves imitate the divine attribute of courtesy. 
And, in the Paradise, it is " I'infiammata cortesia " of 
St. Thomas Aquinas, in his panegyric of St. Francis, that 
moves St. Bonaventura to utter the corresponding praises 
of St. Dominic. 1 Students of English mystical literature 
will remember how the Franciscan conception of the 
courtesy of God, how God is our courteous Lord and 
would have His blessed creatures like to Himself in this, 
is elaborated by Mother Julian of Norwich. 

Again, Dante says of St. Francis that he " cominci6 
umilmente il suo convento." 2 ** Strive after humility," 
said St. Bernard, " for it is the foundation and guardian 
of the virtues." The biographers of St. Francis 
indeed every legend that has come down to us lay 
stress upon his basing, not merely his Order, but his 
whole life, on the virtue of humility. Thus Thomas 
of Celano : " On this he sought to build himself, 
that he might lay the foundation which he had learned 
from Christ." 3 And it is on the note of humility that the 
Saint himself closes his Laudes creaturarum^ his Canticum 
jratris Soils : 

" Laudate e benedicete lu mi signore e rengratiate 
e servite a lui cum grande humilitate." 4 

1 Inf. ii. 17, 58, 134 ; Purg. ix. 92, xiii. 27 ; Par. vii. 91, xii. 143, xv. 48. 
Notice, too, the terrible effect of the ironical application of the epithet to the 
treacherous bishop of Feltre, " questo prete cortese " (Par. ix. 58). 

2 Par. xxii. 90. 

3 Legenda secunda, (ii) cii. 140. Cf. Bonaventura, vi. I. 

4 I quote the Canticle in the text given by I. Delia Giovanna. 

74 



ST. FRANCIS AND DANTE 



Dante confesses himself as particularly tempted to 
pride, but no true student of the poet can doubt for 
a moment that humility in his eyes was indeed " the 
foundation and guardian of the virtues." We see, in 
the Vita Nuova, how constantly he associates it with 
Beatrice. He sees her " benignamente d'umilta ves- 
tuta " ; in his dream of her death, " avea seco umilita 
verace " ; the light of her humility passes the heavens, 
and, when she leaves the world, she is placed by the 
Lord " nel ciel de 1'umiltate, ov'e Maria." And 
humility is the fruit in others of her salutation : " E 
si 1'umilia, ch'ogni offesa oblia." It is wrought by the 
sound of her voice : 

" Ogne dolcezza, ogne pensero umile 
nasce nel core a chi parlar la sente " ; 

her very aspect transforms all things to its likeness : 
"La vista sua fa onne cosa umile." The unfinished 
canzone, to show " come operava in me la sua vertude," 
closes the story of her life on earth on the note of 
humility, the crowning effect of her influence upon 
Dante: " E si e cosa umil, che nol si crede." 1 In 
the Purgatorio, among those Angels who preside over 
the seven terraces, the most beautiful is surely the 
Angel of Humility : 

" A noi venia la creatura bella, 

bianco vestito e ne la faccia quale 
par tremolando mattutina Stella." 2 

1 F.N., Son. xv. 6, Canz. ii. 69, Canz. iii. 21, Son. xviii. 4, Canz. i. 40, 
Son. xi. 9-10, Son. xvi. 9, xxvii. 

2 Purg. xii. 88-90. 

75 



ST. FRANCIS 



And those cantos which deal with the purification of 
the once proud are in effect a hymn to humility. We 
notice the singular delight with which Dante gazes 
upon the images of that virtue sculptured upon the 
mountain wall : " 1'imagini di tante umilitadi " ; humi- 
lity in them of low degree exemplified in Mary herself, 
she who is " umile e alta piu che creatura " ; humility 
in the mighty represented in David and Trajan. The 
story of Trajan and the poor widow, told by mediaeval 
writers as an example of justice, is characteristically 
transformed by the poet into one of humility. 1 The 
motive of thus taking the Blessed Virgin as the first 
example in each terrace, of the virtue contrary to the 
capital vice which is to be purged away, came to Dante 
from a Franciscan book : the Speculum beata Maria 
Virgims of Friar Conrad of Saxony. And, among the 
stories of the souls in this terrace, is one that has taken 
shape with words borrowed from the life of St. Francis 
himself. Provenzano Salvani the great burgher poli- 
tician and faction leader of Siena, who in his pride 
thought to become master of his native city has been 
allowed to enter Purgatory in virtue of an act of humility 
when he begged the money for his friend's ransom in 
the Campo : 

" Quando vivea piu glorioso (disse), 
liberamente nel Campo di Siena, 
ogni vergogna diposta, s'affisse ; 
e li, per trar 1'amico suo di pena 
che sostenea ne la prigion. di Carlo, 
si condusse a tremar per ogni vena." 2 



1 Purg. x. 28-99 J P ar " xxx "i- 2 - z Purg. xi. 133-138. 

76 



ST. FRANCIS AND DANTE 



So, in St. Bonaventura's Legenda, we read how Francis, 
" founded in the humility of Christ," begged alms for 
the restoration of the church of San Damiano : " Laying 
aside all shame, for the love of the poor Crucified, he 
begged from those among whom he had used to be 
rich. 1 ' 1 

That is the terrace where the roots of pride are 
removed from the soul, but even more numerous are 
the Franciscan echoes in the terrace where avarice is 
purged away. It is true that the opposing virtue, 
represented by the Angel at the steps, is not Voluntary 
Poverty, but Justice for that is demanded by Dante's 
ethical scheme. But, in the examples that the souls 
themselves recite of Voluntary Poverty and Liberality, 
the emphasis is laid upon the former in the proportion 
of two to one, and the first, that of the Blessed Virgin, 
recalls another passage in Bonaventura's Legenda : 

" E per ventura udi' ' Dolce Maria ' 

dinanzi a noi chiamar cosi nel pianto 
come fa donna che in parturir sia ; 
e seguitar : ' Povera fosti tanto, 

quanto veder si puo per quello ospizio 
dove sponesti il tuo portato santo." a 

St. Francis, says St. Bonaventura, " would often with 
tears recall to mind the poverty of Jesus Christ and of 
His Mother, and declare that this was the queen of 

1 Legenda maior, ii. 7. Note the verbal echoes : " Depositaque 
omni verecundia propter amorem pauperis Crucifixi, mendicabat apud eos inter 
quos abundare solebat." Dante's indebtedness to Bonaventura in this passage 
was first indicated by A. Bertoldi, // canto XI. del Paradiso (Florence, 1904). 

a Purg. xx. 19-24. 

77 



ST. FRANCIS 



virtues, because she shone forth so pre-eminently in 
the King of Kings and in the Queen His Mother." 1 
In this terrace, too, Dante and Virgil receive from 
Statius the Franciscan greeting : " Frati miei, Dio vi 
dea pace " ; even as St. Francis himself had said in his 
Testament : " The Lord revealed to me this salutation, 
that we should say : The Lord give thee peace" 2 And 
the poet, among the penitent souls in this circle, has 
already spoken with Pope Adrian V, who as Cardinal 
Ottobono de' Fieschi had protected John of Parma 
from persecution, and after his brief pontificate, " un 
mese e poco piu," had chosen as his burial-place the 
church of the Friars Minor in Viterbo. "In that same 
place," writes Salimbene, " was buried the lord pope 
Adrian, who, because of his great love for them, wished 
to have his sepulchre with the brethren." 3 

It is a striking fact (such things with Dante are 
never mere coincidences) that the Pope whose figure 
is contrasted with that of Adrian, in the numerically 
corresponding canto of the Inferno, was likewise, associ- 
ated with John of Parma and a friend of the Franciscan 
Order : Nicholas III. 4 He had as a child even seen 
St. Francis himself. Salimbene says : " Concerning 
him, when he was a boy and offered to blessed Francis 
by his father, who was of the third order, the Saint 

1 Legenda maior, vii. I. Cf. St. Francis in his Letter to all the Faithful, 
Opuscula 5. Patris Francisci, Quaracchi edition, p. 88. 

2 Purg. xxi. 13 ; Opuscula S. Francisci, p. 80. Cf. Bonaventura, iii. 2. 
8 Cronica, ed. cit., p. 666 ; Purg. xix. 97-1 14. 

4 Inf. 



ST. FRANCIS AND DANTE 



foretold that he was not to be a friar in habit, but the 
defender of his Order and the lord of the world." 1 
The fate of Pope Nicholas and that of Guido da Monte- 
feltro, the only friar in the Inferno, are, for Dante, 
Franciscan tragedies which even the intervention of the 
Saint himself was powerless to avert : 

" Francesco venne poi, com'io fu' morto, 
per me ; ma un de' neri cherubini 
li disse : ' Non portar : non mi far torto. 
Venir se ne dee giu tra ' miei meschini'." 2 

Two Franciscans are named in the Purgatorio, but 
presumably already in Paradise : " lo buon Marzucco," 
Marzucco degli Scornigiani, the powerful nobleman of 
Pisa who, become a friar in later life, stayed for a while 
the factions of his citizens over the body of his slain 
son ; Piero Pettinagno, the Sienese combseller and 
Franciscan tertiary, that " great practiser of seraphic 
wisdom," who instructed Ubertino da Casale " in the 
whole process of the higher contemplation of the life 
of Christ." 3 In the Paradiso, Dante learns from a 
Franciscan nun, Piccarda Donati, the doctrine of the 
Mansions of Beatitude, and the " perfetta vita e alto 
merto " of St. Clare. 4 In the fourth heaven he finds 
the great Franciscan doctor, St. Bonaventura, presiding 
with St. Thomas Aquinas over the two garlands of 

1 Cronica, ed. cit., p. 667, and cf. his pathetic story of the visit of John of 
Parma to the Pope, p. 302. 

2 Inf. xxvii. 112-115. 

8 Purg. vi. 1 8, xiii. 128 ; Ubertino da Casale, Arbor Fitae Crucifixae Jesu, 
Prologus I. 

4 Par. iii. 97-108. 

79 



ST. FRANCIS 



doctors and teachers, and hears from the latter the 
story of St. Francis himself. 

Ill 

There were no doubt various reasons, connected 
with the mystical structure of the Paradiso, for which 
Dante selected the fourth heaven as that in which to 
receive the legend of St. Francis from the mouth of 
Aquinas, but one at least was that no sphere was so 
fitting as that of the Sun for the praise of him who had 
hailed the Sun as his brother in the Cantlcumjratrls, Salts : 

" Laudato si', mi signore, cum tucte le tue creature 
spetialmente messer lu frate sole, lu quale lu iorno 
allumeni per nui ; e ellu e bellu e radiante cum grande 
splendore ; de te, altissimu, porta signification e." 

It is possible to find something missing in this 
sublime hymn of praise from the greatest of mediaeval 
poets to the greatest of mediaeval saints : the touching 
familiarity and simplicity of word and deed, the apostle- 
ship of love among men, the fellowship with birds and 
beasts, all the tender personality which is revealed in 
the Fioretti and the Speculum Perfectionis. It was not 
Dante's purpose to dwell upon this aspect of St. Francis, 
but to present him as the creator of a new religious 
order based upon humility and poverty, the instrument 
of Divine Providence on behalf of Rome to restore 
the primitive life of Christ in the Church by his perfect 
imitation of her Divine Founder. 1 He is the " padre " 

1 Cf. F. Novati, Dante e S. Francesco d'Assisi, in his Freschi e minii del 
dugento (Milan, 1908), p. 213. 

80 



ST. FRANCIS AND DANTE 



and " maestro " of the Franciscan family, its " archi- 
mandrita," and the reception of the Stigmata itself is 
the ultimo sigillo, the third and final confirmation of his 
Order after the approbation of Popes Innocent and 
Honorius by Christ Himself. 

Bonaventura's Legenda is unquestionably Dante's 
chief source for the actual events of the Saint's life, 
though he apparently knew something of the earlier, 
equally official in its own day, Legenda prima, of Thomas 
of Celano. But the poet was also acquainted with 
another, unofficial and from the ecclesiastical stand- 
point decidedly unorthodox source : the Arbor Vttae 
Crucijixae Jesu of Ubertino da Casale, composed on 
La Verna itself in 1305, and representing the stand- 
point of the persecuted spiritual party in the Order. 1 
From Ubertino comes in part the conception of what 
we may call Dante's prelude to the legend ; the purpose 
of Divine Providence in the raising up simultaneously 
of Francis and Dominic : 

" La provedenza, che governa il mondo 

con quel consiglio nel quale ogni aspetto 

create e vinto pria che vada al fondo, 
pero ch'andasse ver lo suo diletto 

la sposa di colui ch'ad alte grida 

dispose lei col sangue benedetto, 
in se sicura e anche a lui piu fida, 

due principi ordino in suo favore, 

che quinci e quindi le fosser per guida. 



1 This was first indicated by U. Cosmo, Le mistiche nozze di frate Francesco 
con madonna Povertd, in Giornale Dantesco, anno vi (1898). 

G 8l 



ST. FRANCIS 



L'un fu tutto serafico in ardore ; 

1'altro per sapienza in terra fue 

di cherubica luce uno splendore. 
De 1'un diro, pero che d'amendue 

si dice Pun pregiando, quale uom prende, 

perch' ad un fine fuor 1'opere sue." l 

Similarly, Ubertino speaks of the rising of St. Francis 
and St. Dominic as the succouring of the fallen Church 
by a new offspring of the spirit of poverty, the last 
summons of the Bridegroom to the Spouse of Christ, 
through men " who both by the example of their life 
strenuously rebuked the deformed Church, and by the 
word of the preacher excited the people to repentance ; 
and by the argument of defence confuted the pravity 
of heresy, and by the pleading of prayer appeased the 
divine wrath. Among whom, typifying Elias and 
Enoch, Francis and Dominic singularly shone out ; of 
whom the first was purged by the Seraph's, coal, and, 
inflamed with heavenly ardour, seemed to enkindle the 
whole world ; but the second, like a Cherub, stretching 
out and covering, glowing with the light of wisdom, 
and fruitful with the word of preaching, shone the 
brighter above the world's darkness . . . albeit, in each, 
splendour and ardour were united in abundance of 
spirit." 2 

1 Par. xi. 28-42. 

2 Arbor Vitae Crucifixae, lib. v. cap. 3. Ubertino has the respective images 
of seraphical ardour and cherubical light, but, for Francis, Dante's " tutto 
serafico in ardore " is a literal rendering of Bonaventura's " incendio seraphico 
totus ignitus " (Legenda maior, prologus, l). So Celano, Legenda -prima, 
(ii) ix. 115 : " Seraphim imaginem tenuit atque formam." 

82 



ST. FRANCIS AND DANTE 



In the beautiful lines describing Assisi, and the 
birth of Francis as the rising of a new spiritual sun 
upon the world, the imagery was traditional with the 
Franciscans. Thus Thomas of Celano, on the Saint's 
death : " O vere mundi lucerna, sole splendidius lucens 
in Christi Ecclesia," and Pope Gregory IX, in the 
exordium of his sermon when canonising him : " Quasi 
sol refulgens, sic iste effulsit in templo Dei " r 1 

" Intra Tupino e 1'acqua che discende 

del colle eletto dal beato Ubaldo, 

fertile costa d'alto monte pende, 
onde Perugia sente freddo e caldo 

da Porta Sole ; e di rietro le piange 

per grave giogo Nocera con Gualdo. 
Di questa costa, la dov'ella frange 

piia sua rattezza, nacque al mondo un sole, 

come fa questo tal volta di Gauge. 
Pero chi d'esso loco fa parole, 

non dica Ascesi, che direbbe corto, 

ma Oriente, se proprio dir vuole." 2 

From this point onwards, Dante closely follows 
Bonaventura for the story of the " mirabil vita del 
poverel di Dio," even occasionally in the actual phraseo- 
logy, with apparently here and there an echo of Thomas 
of Celano, but transforms the tale, giving it a colour 
which is less Bonaventura's than that of the spiritual 
party in the Order, by making the mystical espousals 
with Lady Poverty the centre of the whole. 

In the Legenda prima of Thomas of Celano, Francis 
when asked by his friends whether he is going to 

1 Legendq -prima, (ii) viii. in, 125. z Par. xi. 43-54. 

83 



ST. FRANCIS 



take a wife answers : " I am going to take a nobler 
and fairer bride than you ever saw, who excels all 
others in beauty and surpasses all in wisdom." 1 Thomas 
writing (about 1228) under the influence of Brother 
Elias who was then Vicar-General represents the chosen 
Bride as True Religion, vera religlo. But who can 
doubt that it was Lady Poverty whom Francis himself 
meant ? And indeed, in the Legenda secunda, composed 
nearly twenty years later, and now under the influence 
of the party of the strict observance, we are left with 
no uncertainty on the subject : 

" Placed in the valley of tears this blessed father 
scorns as penury the common riches of the sons of 
men, since, seeking a higher degree, he longs with all 
his heart for Poverty. Considering her as the familiar 
friend of the Son of God, he strives to espouse with 
perpetual love her who was now cast out by all the 
world. Having thus become a lover of her beauty, 
that he might cleave more strongly to his bride, and 
that they two might be one in spirit, he not only left 
his father and mother, but even put all things from 
him. Therefore he draws her to himself with chaste 
embraces, nor for a moment does he endure not to be 
her husband." 2 

But, before Thomas of Celano, in the Sacrum 
Commercium questionably attributed by some to Gio- 

1 Legenda prima, (i) iii. 7. 

2 Thomas of Celano, Legenda secunda, (ii) xxv. 55. See Father Cuthbert, 
St. Francis and Poverty, in Franciscan Essays, by Paul Sabatier and others 
(Aberdeen, 1912), pp. 1 8, 19. Cf. Bonaventura, Legenda maior, vii. I. 



ST. FRANCIS AND DANTE 



vanni Parent! and by others to John of Parma, and 
written, according to the former, in 1227, the year 
after the Saint's death we read how " the blessed 
Francis, like a true imitator and disciple of the Saviour, 
from the beginning of his conversion, gave himself up 
to seek, to find, and to hold Holy Poverty, that he might 
come unto her to whom the Lord had given the keys 
of the kingdom of heaven," and how at last he and 
his brethren attained to her embrace on the topmost 
pinnacle of the mountain of light. Here, too, we read 
that Poverty suffered with Christ upon the Cross, "so 
that nothing did seem more glorious in Him than her." 

It is in this spirit that Dante transforms the whole 
scene, which he had read in Bonaventura, of Francis 
renouncing all things in the presence of his father and 
the Bishop of Assisi, into the wedding solemnity of the 
Saint and Lady Poverty : 



Non era ancor molto lontan da Porto, 
ch'el comincio a far sentir la terra 
de la sua gran virtute alcun conforto ; 

che per tal donna, giovinetto, in guerra 
del padre corse, a cui, come a la morte, 
la porta del piacer nessun diserra ; 

e dinanzi a la sua spirital corte 
et coram patre le si fece unito ; 
poscia di di in di 1'amo piu forte. 

Questa, privata del primo marito, 
millecent' anni e piu dispetta e scura 
fino a costui si stette'sanza invito ; 

ne valse udir che la trovo sicura 

con Amiclate, al suon de la sua voce, 
colui ch'a tutto '1 mondo fe paura ; 

85 



ST. FRANCIS 



ne valse esser costante ne feroce, 

si che, dove Maria rimase giuso, 

ella con Cristo salse in su la croce. 
Ma perch'io non proceda troppo chiuso, 

Francesco e Poverta per questi amanti 

prendl oramai nel mio parlar diffuse." 1 

Most probably Dante had no direct knowledge of 
the Sacrum Commercium, much less of the Legenda 
secunda of Thomas of Celano. It may be that the con- 
ception of the mystical espousals had become so well 
known that a literary source need not be assumed 
(Giotto's fresco at Assisi, whenever painted, is almost 
certainly earlier than the Paradtso) ; but there can be 
no doubt that the poet was directly influenced by the 
Arbor Vttae Crucifixae, into which Ubertino had incor- 
porated certain portions of the Sacrum Commerclum as 
of other writings of the spiritual party. The famous 
image of Poverty with Christ upon the Cross, found 
already though without the further image of Mary 
remaining below in the Sacrum Commercium, came to 
Dante from the prayer to obtain Poverty (" O domine 
Jesu, ostende mihi semitas tuae dilectissimae pauper- 
tatis ") which Ubertino places on the lips of St. Francis 
himself : " When, by reason of the height of the Cross, 
even Thine own Mother (who, nevertheless, alone did 
then faithfully worship Thee, and was joined by 
agonised love to Thy passion), even she, I say, and such 
a Mother, could not reach up to Thee ; Lady Poverty, 
with all her penury, as Thy most dear servitor, held 

1 far. xi. 55-75. 

86 



ST. FRANCIS AND DANTE 



Thee more than ever closely embraced, and was joined 
most intimately to Thy sufferings." * 

Upon these mystical espousals the whole narrative 
that follows is made to depend : 

" La lor concordia e i lor lieti sembianti, 

amore e maraviglia e dolce sguardo 

facieno esser cagion di pensier santi ; 
tanto che '1 venerabile Bernardo 

si scalzo prima, e dietro a tanta pace 

corse e, correndo, li parve esser tardo. 
Oh ignota ricchezza, oh ben ferace ! 

Scalzasi Egidio, scalzasi Silvestro, 

dietro a lo sposo, si la sposa piace.. 
Indi sen va quel padre e quel maestro 

con la sua donna e con quella famiglia 

che gia legava 1'umile capestro." 2 

The description of Bernardo da Qu. ntavalle, though 
the epithet " venerabile " is Bonaventura's, seems to 
contain a reminiscence of Thomas of Celano : " Brother 
Bernard, embracing the embassy of peace, ran swiftly 
after the holy man of God to purchase the kingdom of 
Heaven." 3 

1 Arbor Vitae Crucifixae, lib. v. cap. iii. Cf. Fiorettiy cap. xiii. In Dante's 
line, Par. xi. 72, the two earliest dated MSS and the first four editions all read : 
" Ella con Cristo pianse in su la croce," which is the reading accepted in the 
testo critico by Vandelli as also by Casella. The alternative salse is given by Ben- 
venuto da Imola, and retained by Dr. Toynbee in the Oxford Dante. While 
salse seems required by the passage, -pianse is hardly less supported by the words 
in Ubertino : " Immo ipsa matre propter altitudinem crucis, que tamen te 
sola tune fideliter coluit et affectu anxio tuis passionibus iuncta fuit, ipsa inquam 
tali matre te non valente contingere, domina Paupertas cum omnibus suis 
penuriis tamquam tibi gratissimus domicellus te plus quam unquam fuit 
strictius amplexata et tuo cruciatu precordalius iuncta." 

2 Par. xi. 76-87. 3 Legenda prima, (i) x. 24. 

87 



ST. FRANCIS 



So the sublime lyric continues, from the first appro- 
bation by Innocent to the final confirmation by Christ 
Himself on La Verna, with now and then a phrase of 
Bonaventura's almost literally rendered : 

" Ne li gravo vilta di cor le ciglia 

per esser fi' di Pietro Bernardone, 

ne per parer dispetto a maraviglia ; 
ma regalmente sua dura intenzione 

ad Innocenzio aperse, e da lui ebbe 

primo sigillo a sua religione. 
Poi che la gente poverella crebbe 

dietro a costui, la cui mirabil vita 

meglio in gloria del ciel si canterebbe, 
di seconda corona redimita 

fu per Onorio da 1'etterno Spiro 

la santa voglia d'esto archimandrita. 
E poi che, per la sete del martiro, 

ne la presenza del Soldan superba 

predico Cristo e gli altri che'l seguiro, 
e per trovare a conversione acerba 

troppo la gente, per non stare indarno, 

reddissi al frutto de 1'italica erba, 
nel crudo sasso intra Tevero e Arno 

da Cristo prese 1'ultimo sigillo, 

che le sue membra due anni portarno." 1 

Bonaventura, too, speaks of the Saint as " desiderio 
martyrii flagrans " in his mission to the Soldan, and 
of the Stigmata as " sigillum summi pontificis Christi." 2 
The wonderful lines on the death of the " poverello " 
in the embraces of Lady Poverty give the mystical 
essence of Bonaventura's picture of him dying on the 
bare ground, when " the holy man rejoiced in gladness 

1 Par., xi. 88-108. 2 Legenda maior, ix. 5, xiii. 9. 



Plate IV. 




By the courtesy of Sir Joseph Duveen 

St. Francis clothing the Beggar and Dreaming of the Church. 
By Sassetta (1444). 



ST. FRANCIS 



So the sublime lyric continues, from the first appro- 
bation by Innocent to the final confirmation by Christ 
Himself on La Verna, with now and then a phrase of 
Bonaventura's almost literally rendered : 

" Ne li gravo vilta di cor le ciglia 

per esser fi' di Pietro Bernardone, 

ne per parer dispetto a maraviglia ; 
ma regalmente sua dura intenzione 

ad Innocenzio aperse, e da lui ebbe 

primo sigillo a sua religione. 
Poi che la gente poverella crebbe 

dietro a costui, la cui mirabil vita 

meglio in gloria del ciel si canterebbe, 
di seconda corona redimita 

fu per Onorio da 1'etterno Spiro 

la santa voglia d'esto archimandrita. 
E poi che, per la sete del martiro, 

ne la presenza del Soldan superba 

predico Cristo e gli altri che'l seguiro, 
e per trovare a conversione acerba 

troppo la gente, per non stare indarno, 

reddissi al frutto de 1'italica erba, 
nel crudo sasso intra Tevero e Arno 

da Cristo prese 1' ultimo sigillo, 

che le sue membra due anni portarno." l 

Bonaventura, too, speaks of the Saint as " desiderio 
martyrii flagrans " in his mission to the Soldan, and 
of the Stigmata as " sigillum summi pontificis Christi." 2 
The wonderful lines on the death of the " poverello " 
in the embraces of Lady Poverty give the mystical 
essence of Bonaventura's picture of him dying on the 
bare ground, when " the holy man rejoiced in gladness 

1 Par. xi. 88-108. 2 Legenda maior, is. 5, xiii. 9. 



Plate IV. 







fir /At' coiirli;sy of Sir Joseph Ditreen 

St. Francis clothing the Beggar and Dreaming of the Church. 
Hv Sassetta (14441. 



ST. FRANCIS AND DANTE 



of heart, for he saw that he had kept faith with Lady 
Poverty even unto the end." 1 

" Quando a colui ch'a tanto ben sortillo 

piacque di trarlo suso a la mercede 

ch'el merito nel suo farsi pusillo, 
a' frati suoi, si com'a giuste rede, 

raccomando la donna sua piu cara, 

e comando che 1'amassero a fede ; 
e del suo grembo 1'anima preclara 

mover si volse, tornando al suo regno, 

e al suo corpo non volse altra bara." a 

We have heard Aquinas name for Dante three as 
the first companions of Francis : Bernardo, Egidio, 
Silvestro. Here Dante follows Bonaventura, who simi- 
larly associates these three 3 although in reality Sil- 
vestro, " columbinae simplicitatis vir," seems to have 
been one of the last of the original twelve who travelled 
to Rome with the Saint in 1210 for the approbation of 
Pope Innocent. But in the next canto, where Bona- 
ventura is the spokesman, and, after reciting the praises 
of St. Dominic, laments the dissensions of the Order in 
the poet's own day, two others of the early followers of 
St. Francis, though not of the original twelve, are by 
his side, as models of that primitive fervour and discipline 
which the speaker himself, as minister-general, had 
attempted to restore : 

" Illuminate e Augustin son quici, 
che fuor de' primi scalzi poverelli 
che nel capestro a Dio si fero amici." 4 



1 Legenda maior, xiv. 4. 3 Legenda maior, Hi. 3-5. 

z Par. xi. 109-117. * Par. xii. 130-132. 



ST. FRANCIS 



Dante had read of these two friars in Bonaventura's 
pages. Agostino is the " vir utique sanctus et iustus," 
who, when minister of the friars in Terra di Lavoro at 
the time of the death of Francis, saw a vision of him 
going up into heaven, and, recovering his speech (for 
he was dying), cried : " Wait for me, Father, wait for 
me, I am coming with thee " ; and died the same hour. 1 
Again, in Bonaventura, Illuminate " vir utique luminis 
et virtutis " is the socius of St. Francis on his mission 
to convert the Soldan, and, a little later, " gratia illumi- 

natus et nomine," bids the Saint not to conceal the 

' \ 

reception of the Stigmata : " Brother, know that, not 
only for thine own sake, but for that of others, divine 
mysteries are sometimes shown thee. Therefore it 
may rightly be feared lest, if thou concealest what thou 
hast received for the profit of many, thou mayest be 
judged guilty of the hidden talent." 2 This is, perhaps, 
all that Dante knew about him. But, in 1 244, eighteen 
years after the death of the Saint, we have the letter of 
the three companions Leo, Angelo, Ruffino to the 
minister-general of the Order, Crescentius, in which 
" frater Illuminatus de Reate " (or " de Arce " in 
another text) is one of the holy friars from whom they 
have learned things about St. Francis in addition to 
those which they saw with their own eyes. 3 

So far we understand the position Illuminate holds 
in the Paradiso, but there are perplexing documents 



1 Legenda maior, xiv. 6. 2 Ibid., ix. 8, xiii. 4. 

3 Legenda trium Sociorum, ed. cit., p. 2. 
90 



ST. FRANCIS AND DANTE 



and records. In 1238 a friar who describes himself as 
" frater Alluminatus, qui olim in seculo vocabar Acca- 
rinus de Rocha Accarini," cedes to the commune of 
Spoleto a part of the Rocca Accarina, between Spoleto 
and Rieti, which has lapsed to him on the death of his 
son Elias, then minister-general, having given him 
permission to dispose of it as he pleases. 1 In that same 
year, 1238, Salimbene of Parma was received into the 
Order by Elias. He tells us that Illuminate was then 
the secretary of Elias, and that he Salimbene was 
afterwards with him in the convent at Siena : " This 
Frate Illuminate was afterwards minister in the province 
of St. Francis (i.e. Umbria), but later on was made 
Bishop of Assisi, where he closed his days." 2 And 
there is documentary evidence that a friar minor 
Illuminatus he is called " de Theate " (that is, of 
Chieti, which may be a mistake for Rieti, in the docu- 
ment) was elected Bishop of Assisi in 1273 (the same 
year in which Bonaventura became Cardinal and Bishop 
of Albano), the election being confirmed by Gregory X 
in the following year. He was still living in 1280, 
but a bull of Martin IV, March 10, 1282, speaks of 
him as dead : " bonae memoriae Illuminatus." 3 

Is the " Illuminatus," or " Alluminatus," of the 
documents the Illuminate of Bonaventura's Legenda 
and of the Paradiso ? If, as Accarino, he was old 

1 See Miscellanea francescana, xii (Foligno, 1910), p. 103. 

2 Cronica, ed. cit., p. 39. 

3 Cf. Sbaralea, Bullarium Franciscanum, iii. pp. 206, 215, 483 ; Sabatier, 
Speculum Perfectionis^ pp. 220 n 2, 306 3. 

9 1 



ST. FRANCIS 



enough to have had a son before he entered the Order, 
and if he accompanied St. Francis to the east in 1219, it 
is clear that he must have been a very old man when he 
became Bishop of Assisi. We may note, too, that several 
friars minor in the thirteenth century bore the name 
of Illuminate, 1 and that Bartolommeo of Pisa, in his' 
De Conformitate vitae beati Francisci (finished in 1390), 
knows only of Illuminato as the socius of St. Francis 
in the mission to the Soldan and in the episode of the 
Stigmata, citing him as one of those holy men of 
whom the friars have kept no record of their end or 
place of burial : " ubi jaceat, non habetur." 2 

Nevertheless, I am not prepared to reject the gener- 
ally accepted identification of the Illuminato of Bona- 
ventura, and therefore of Dante, with Accarino of 
Rocca Accarina, the secretary of Elias, the Bishop of 
Assisi. It has some significance for us in that, if Illumi- 
nato was so closely associated with Elias, if he thus 
disposed of his own property and ended as a bishop, 
he was, perhaps, not quite that ideal type of Friar Minor 
that Dante meant to represent. But it is an attractive 
picture : the last of the immediate followers of the 
Saint ending in this way as the bishop of his native city. 
We may hope that he received his elevation to the 
episcopate in the same spirit as that in which Bona- 
ventura greeted the papal envoy who brought him the 

1 Celano, Tractatus de Miraculis, ed. E. d'Alen9on, p. 407 ; Salimbene, 
Cronica, p. 612. 

2 Analecta Franciscana, iv (Quaracchi, 1906), p. 245. 

92 



ST. FRANCIS AND DANTE 



red hat : " Hang it on a peg until I have finished 
washing up the convent platters." 

Dante has thus heard the legend of St. Francis, 
seen the glorified spirits of two of his friars with that of 
his chief successor and biographer, before he looks upon 
the face of the poverello himself, enthroned in the 
Empyrean Heaven in the descending line in the 
Celestial Rose which begins with St. John the Baptist : 



" E sotto lui cosi cerner sortiro 

Francesco, Benedetto e Augustino, 
e altri fin qua giu di giro in giro." * 

His place is significant ; representing the renovation 
of the evangelical life of perfection, he is opposite to 
Eve restored to the beauty that was hers before the fall ; 
higher even than St. Benedict and St. Augustine, he is 
next in order, in post-Apostolic days, to John the Bap- 
tist, than whom " among men that are born of women 
there hath not risen a greater." Thus, for Dante too, 
" 1'Italia, con San Francesco, ha dato anche il piu santo 
dei santi al Cristianesimo e alFumanita." 

1 Par. xxxii. 34-36. 



93 



THE " LITTLE FLOWERS " OF ST. FRANCIS 

PROFESSOR EDMUND G. GARDNER, LITT.D., F.B.A. 



THE "LITTLE FLOWERS" OF 
ST. FRANCIS 

IT is, perhaps, inevitable that the literal English equiva- 
lent of the title of the best known and best loved Fran- 
ciscan book, I Fioretti di San Francesco, should have a 
somewhat sentimental sound. But in Italian literature 
of the thirteenth and fourteenth century such words as 
" fiore," " fieri," " fioretto," " fioretti," or collectively 
" fiorita," were used to denote a selection or compila- 
tion. Thus we have II fiore di rettorica of Fra Guidotto 
da Bologna, a compendium of the pseudo-Ciceronian 
treatise on Rhetoric ; the Fiori e vita di Jilosafi ed altri 
savi ed imperatori ; the Fiore di parlare or Somma 
d'arengare, a collection of models for vernacular 
speeches in various contingencies ; the Fiorita of 
Armannino da Bologna, and the Fiore d'ltalia of the 
Carmelite, Guido da Pisa, summaries of universal and 
Roman history ; the Fioretto di croniche degli imperatori ; 
the Fioretti delta Eibbla ; the Fiorettt delle Morali di 
Santo Gregorio ; and so on. The delightful Cento 
novelle antiche an earlier counterpart to our Fran- 
ciscan anthology in the secular field relates " alquanti 
fiori di parlare, di belle cortesie," and the like, of 
noble men in the past. But the title " Little Flowers " 
is best justified and explained by a passage in the 
H 97 



ST. FRANCIS 



letter prefixed to another, somewhat problematical 
Franciscan work, the Legenda trium Sociorum : " These 
things we write not in the manner of a legend, since for 
a long time legends have been composed of his life 
and of the miracles that God wrought through him. 
But as from a pleasant meadow we pluck certain flowers 
which in our judgment are fairer, not following a 
continuous history, but leaving out many things as 
they befell, which in the foresaid legends have been 
set down in truthful and clear speech." * Thus, in 
the introductory rubric of some texts of the Fioretti : 
" In questo libro si contengono certi fioretti, miracoli 
ed esempli divoti del glorioso poverello di Cristo, messer 
santo Francesco, e d'alquanti suoi santi compagni." 

To the student of Italian literature, the Fioretti 
is a work of inestimable value. For, in a Tuscan 
removed only by some half century from Dante's own, 
it supplements and completes the Francis of the Divina 
Commedia, giving us all those human and legendary 
features in his personality which the poet omitted, 
while presenting the general course of Franciscan 
history, the struggle between the two parties in the 
Order which had already begun in the Saint's lifetime 
and came to a head in Dante's own days, from a different 
standpoint. 

But the Fioretti is not, in the more usual sense of the 
word, an original work. The friar who here and there 
speaks of himself in the first person is never the actual 

1 Legenda trium Sociorum, ed. cit., p. 4. 



THE "LITTLE FLOWERS" OF ST. FRANCIS 

writer of the Italian book, nor perhaps always one and 
the same man. In chapter XLV, the story of Fra 
Giovanni della Penna, we read : " E tutte queste cose 
recito a me, frate Ugolino, lo stesso frate Giovanni." 
The seventeenth century annalist of the Franciscan 
order, Luke Wadding, first stated that the author of 
the Fioretti was a friar of the Marches, Ugolino da 
Santa Maria in Monte, and that the title of his original 
Latin work was the Floretum. In 1902, M. Paul 
Sabatier published the Actus beati, Francisci et Sociorum 
eius, a Latin compilation of which various manuscripts 
exist, and which as supplemented twelve years later 
by Mr. A. G. Little from a manuscript in his possession 
consists of 76 chapters, of which 52 or 53 (according 
to the division or absence of division of the first chapter) 
reappear in an Italian garb as the Fioretti. 1 There are 
scholars who still hold that both the Latin Actus and 
the Italian Fioretti are derived independently from the 
(at present undiscovered) Floretum ; but the more 
probable view remains that of Sabatier : that the 
Fioretti are directly extracted from the Actus which 

1 Actus beati Francisci et Sociorum eius, ed. P. Sabatier (Paris, 1902) ; A. G. 
Little, Description of a Franciscan Manuscript preserved formerly in the Pbillipps 
Library now in the -possession of A. G. L., in Collec tanea Franc iscana, I (Aberdeen, 
1914).' Six of the Fioretti chapters-XXXVII, XXXVIII, XLI, XLIV, XLVI, 
XLVIII were lacking in M. Sabatier's text, and (with the exception of 
XXXVII, of which no Latin original was known) were supplied by him from 
other sources ; all these six are included in Mr. Little's manuscript and (ex- 
cepting XLVIII) printed by him in extenso (op. cit., pp. 33-47). I refer to 
the Fioretti throughout as in 53 chapters. 

99 



ST. FRANCIS 



is itself, to all intents and purposes, the Floretum of 
Ugolino. 1 

The name of Fra Ugolino occurs three times in the 
Actus. In the story of the reception of the Stigmata 
as seen by Brother Leo upon La Verna : " This history 
Fra Jacopo da Massa had from the mouth of Fra 
Leone, and Fra Ugolino da Monte Santa Maria from 
the mouth of the said Fra Jacopo, and I who wrote from 
the mouth of Fra Ugolino, a man in all respects worthy 
of faith." 2 Again, in the chapter on Fra Giovanni 
della Penna : " All these things the said Fra Giovanni 
related to me, Fra Ugolino " ; where, however, in 
Mr. Little's manuscript, it runs : " And all these things 
Fra Giovanni himself related to Fra Ugolino." 3 Yet 
again, in Mr. Little's text of the tale of how Fra Simone 
of Assisi in what was surely not quite the spirit of 
St. Francis drove away the crows that disturbed his 
prayers in the wood of Brunforte so that they were 
never more heard or seen in that region : " And I, 

1 Sabatier reprinted the Fioretti chapters of his text of the Actus in the 
order in which they occur in the Italian.: Floretum S. Francisci Assisiensis. 
Liber aureus qui italice dicitur I Fioretti di San Francesco (Paris, 1902) See his 
preface to this and to the Actus. Cf. G. Garavani, II Floretum di Ugolino da 
Montegiorgio e i Fioretti di S. Francesco, in Atti e Memorie della R. Dgputazione 
di Storia Patria -per le provincie delle Marche, N.S., Vols. I-II (Ancona, 1904- 
1905) ; A. della Torre, introduction to his edition / Fioretti di San Francesco 
(Turin, 1909), pp. xii-xxxiv ; F. van Ortroy, in Analecta Bollandiana, XXVII 
(1908), pp. 488-492, XXXIII (1914), pp. 455-457. Note the phrase, quoted 
by Mr. Little (op. cit., p. 47), written in another hand on his manuscript of 
the Actus : " principium flosculorum." 

2 Actus, ed. Sabatier, IX. 

a Actus, LXIX, Fioretti, XLV. 

100 



THE "LITTLE FLOWERS" OF ST. FRANCIS 

Fra Ugolino da Monte Santa Maria, stayed there three 
years, and saw with certainty that the said miracle 
was known both to laymen and to the friars of the whole 
custody." 1 Further, the writer speaks of himself 
anonymously in the first person four times as the in- 
timate associate of Fra Giovanni della Verna, 2 arid once 
in the same way though here the " I " is generally 
believed to be another person in connection with the 
famous vision of Fra Jacopo da Massa. 3 

With the exception of that one chapter, it seems 
the most plausible theory that Fra Ugolino is the 
original author of the Actu^ and that he had a colla- 
borator, or perhaps an editor after his death, in the 
unnamed friar " ego qui scripsi " who says that 
he took down the story of the Stigmata from his lips. 
Sabatier would identify this Ugolino da Monte Santa 
Maria or da Montegiorgio, so called from the convent 
in the March of Ancona near Ascoli Piceno where he 
passed part of his life, with Ugolino da Brunforte, a 
friar minor of the spiritual party, who had been ap- 
pointed bishop of Teramo by Celestine V and whose 
election was annulled by Boniface VIII : "ex certis 
causis iustitia exigente," as the latter Pontiff's bull of 
December 12, 1295, puts it. 4 This Ugolino seems 
to have lived many years, if he is the same who was 
minister provincial of the Marches in 1 340 and died in 

1 Little, op. cit., pp. 34-36 ; Fioretti, XLI. 

2 Actus, LI, LII, LIV, LVIII. 

3 Actus, LXXVI, Fioretti, XLVIII. 

4 Sbaralea, Bullarium Franciscanum, IV. p. 376. 

101 



ST. FRANCIS 



1348, and the identification which is unsupported 
by external evidence presents almost insuperable 
chronological difficulties. 1 In the Fioretti there is ex- 
press mention of the death of Giovanni della Verna. 
This is said (though not proved by documentary 
evidence) to have taken place in August, 1322. The 
passage does not occur in the Latin text of the Actus^ 
where, nevertheless, the friar is spoken of as though 
he were no longer living. It seems therefore fairly 
clear that the Actus took their present shape after 1322, 
and Sabatier has shown grounds for holding that they 
were written between that date and I328. 2 The book 
originated in the Franciscan convents of a small district 
in the March of Ancona, where the spirit of St. Francis 
had very early taken strong root, and where the friars 
adhered zealously to the party of the strict observance, 
not only holding the memory of Brother Elias in ab- 
horrence as that of an apostate, but regarding even the 
great St. Bonaventura with his reconciliatory via 
media as a persecutor, one who had drunk but a 
portion of the chalice of life which the Seraphic Father 
proffered to the lips of his followers. 

The date and author of the Italian text are not 

1 Cf. A. della Torre, op. cit., pp. xxvii-xxviii. If this is the Ugolino of 
the Actus, he must have been little more than a child when he received the 
confidence of Giovanni della Penna and spoke with Jacopo da Massa. On the 
other hand, the references to Brunforte in the Actus are noteworthy. 

2 An alternative theory would regard the Actus as originally composed 
in the latter part of the thirteenth century, but with later additions 
after 1322. 

IO2 



THE "LITTLE FLOWERS" OF ST. FRANCIS 

known, though the name of a certain Fra Giovanni of 
Florence has, on inadequate grounds, been put forward. 
The earliest dated manuscript is 1396, and the work 
probably took shape shortly after the middle of the 
fourteenth century. In its earliest and primitive form, 
the Fioretti consists of two parts : fifty-three chapters, 
the Floretum or Fioretti proper, derived with considerable 
modification from the Actus, and the five Consideration! 
delle gloriose Stimmate di santo Francesco^ a compila- 
tion from various sources which is probably the original 
work of the translator who was a Tuscan, most likely 
a Florentine, and perhaps actually writing in the 
convent at La Verna. To these, slightly later, various 
other translations from the Latin were added : the 
Vita dijrate Ginepro, the life of Brother Juniper, which 
is included in its Latin form in the Chronicle of the 
Twenty-Jour Generals (completed about 1379), and 
the Vita del beato jrate Egidio, the life of Blessed Giles, 
together with his detti notabili translated from his 
well-known Aurea verba. This life of Giles, again, 
corresponds with portions of the " Long Life " in the 
Chronicle of the Twenty-jour Generals, which like the 
" Short Life," of which it is probably an expansion 
is ultimately derived from the (no longer extant) original 
life by Brother Leo. 1 As a further appendix to the 

1 The Short Life has been edited by Dr. Walter W. Seton, Blessed Giles 
of Assist (Manchester, 1918). The Chronica XXIV Generalium, attributed 
to Arnold of Sarano, is published in Analecta Franciscana, III. (Quaracchi, 
1897). A good deal of the matter of the Actus and Fioretti proper is likewisq 
included jn the Chronica, 



ST. FRANCIS 



Fioretti, some manuscripts and editions have a series, 
varying in number, of " esempi e miracoli di messer 
santo Francesco," of small interest or significance 
compared with those of the Fioretti proper, including 
one decidedly unpleasing legend about the fate of the 
abbot who refused to receive the first band of friars 
under Agnello of Pisa whom St. Francis sent to Eng- 
land. 1 

Each of the Fioretti is complete in itself, and there 
is no attempt to make the book a chronological history. 
But they fall naturally into two groups. The first 
chapters I to XXXVIII consists of stories con- 
cerning St. Francis and his first companions and fol- 
lowers ; the second from XLII to LIII treats of 
the lives of certain friars, mostly of a later date, in the 
province of the March of Ancona, the contemporaries 
of the original compiler of the Actus, whether Fra 
Ugolino or another. Between the two groups, as a 
kind of intermezzo, are the two stories of St. Antony 
of Padua (XXXIX, XL) and that of Fra Simone of 
Assisi (XLI). 

In the first group of stories there is, no doubt, a 

1 To mention a few of the more recent editions : that of A. della Torre 
includes only the Fioretti proper and the Consider azioni, as does also that of 
L. Manzoni (Rome, 1900), which presents the text of the MS. of 1396 (the 
Amaretto Manelli MS. of the Biblioteca Nazionale of Florence). The edition 
of G. L. Passerini (2nd ed. Florence, 1919), based upon the early fifteenth cen- 
tury MS. 1670 of the Riccardiana, contains also all the supplementary matter, 
as does the latest edition of Mario Casella (Florence, 1926), which offers a 
critically constructed text. Casella's promised critical edition with a commentary 
has not, I think, yet appeared. 

IQ4 



THE "LITTLE FLOWERS" OF ST. FRANCIS 

purely fantastical element, illustrating the growth or 
later elaboration of legends of miracles and the like 
(sometimes of no spiritual significance) ; but much is 
of genuine historical value, representing even though 
the Latin original may not date from less than a century 
after the death of St. Francis a most primitive and 
authentic tradition. As Sabatier well puts it : " For 
the first Franciscan generation, Ugolino made use of 
pre-existing documents, which he rehandled and trans- 
formed, but without entirely destroying the primitive 
character." 1 He has behind him, not only written 
sources, but an oral tradition coming straight from the 
Saint's first followers. One of his chief informants is 
the somewhat mysterious Fra Jacopo da Massa who 
had been a friend of Blessed Giles and clearly a light 
among the spiritual party in the days of Bonaventura's 
generalship 2 and Fra Jacopo had received these 
matters from Brother Leo. Here, as in so much of 
the literature of the strict observance, like the Speculum 
Perfectionis and even the Arbor Vitae Crucijixae, the 
tradition comes from the memories, and perhaps the 
actual writing, of Francis's beloved secretary, his 
" pecorella di Dio." Hence the singular beauty, the 
convincing Franciscan simplicity, of some of the stories 
in which Francis and Leo alone appear together upon 

1 Actus, preface. 

2 Cf. Garayani, op. cit., i. pp. 285-288. There seems no secure evidence 
for the statement sometimes made that Jacopo da Massa died about 1260. If 
he is the same as the " laico santo " of Fioretti, Cap. LI, he must have lived 
into the next century. 

105 



ST. FRANCIS 



the scene ; the one where the Saint instructs his com- 
panion upon the Friar Minor finding perfect joy when 
rejected even by his own brethren : " O frate Leone, 
scrivi che ivi e perfetta letizia " ; and the following, 
where the two contend lovingly in speech, Francis 
bidding Leo repeat the words of rebuke which he 
utters, while the faithful " pecorella " can only obey 
by transforming them into words of praise : " And so 
in this humble contention, with many tears and with 
much spiritual consolation, they kept vigil until day." 1 

The same primitive Franciscan character appears 
in one of the most beautiful of all the chapters : the 
story of how the mysterious pilgrim came to visit 
Egidio, Blessed Giles, at Perugia, and how, though 
neither spoke a word to the other, the friar knew him 
to be St. Louis, the king of France. 2 The story occurs 
again in Latin, about half a century after the Actus, 
in the life of Giles included in the Chronic a XXIV 
Generalium, though not in the " Short Life." But, as 
Dr. Seton observes, " Granted that evidence cannot be 
produced to show that St. Louis ever was in Italy or 
ever visited Blessed Giles at Perugia, that does not of 
itself prove that the story is not a genuine and integral 
part of the Legend of Blessed Giles." 3 We may, then, 
be allowed to believe that Brother Leo is again the 
source of this story, and that, whoever that silent 
pilgrim from beyond the Alps may have been, Egidio 
had told his friend that he believed that he had held 

i Capp. VIII-IX, 2 Cap. XXXIV. 3 Of. *., p. 43. 

106 



THE "LITTLE FLOWERS" OF ST. FRANCIS 

in his embrace that great king, who, in Walter Pater's 
words, " because his whole being was full of heavenly 
wisdom, in self-banishment from it for a while, led and 
ruled the French people so magnanimously alike in 
peace and war." 

There are few more familiar Franciscan stories 
than that of how St. Francis converted the ferocious 
wolf of Gubbio into that delightful " frate Lupo," 
who went from house to house as a domestic friend and 
whom the citizens fed cortesemente (note the true Fran- 
ciscan word), and after whom no dog ever barked. 1 
We are told that it is a symbol of the Church assuaging 
the ferocity of the Middle Ages, or merely a poetical 
version of St. Francis himself converting the bandit 
Lupo into Frate Agnello. However that may be, the 
tales of the Saint's familiar relations with the birds 
of the air assuredly stand in no need of such explaining 
away : his taming of the turtle doves, his bidding 
the swallows keep silence while he preached, the falcon 
which nested near his cell and woke him at the hour 
of matins. There is a whole chapter of such episodes 
with birds and beasts in Bonaventura. 2 The preach- 
ing to the birds, " alle mie sirocchie uccelli," already 
in Thomas of Celano, is nowhere told so fully or so 
beautifully as in the Fioretti ; and notice that here it 
is not borrowed from any literary source, but comes 

1 Cap. XXI. 

2 Legenda maior, cap. VIII : " Quomodo ratione carentia videbantur ad 
ipsum affici." 



ST. FRANCIS 



again from Fra Jacopo da Massa, who had it by word 
of mouth from Fra Masseo, who was one of the com- 
panions of the Saint on that occasion : 

" Passing on with that fervour, he raised his eyes, 
and saw some trees by the side of the way, upon which 
were a vast multitude of birds ; whereat St. Francis 
wondered and said to his companions : ' Do you await 
me here in the road, and I will go and preach to my 
sister birds.' And, having entered the field, he began 
to preach to the birds who were on the ground ; and 
straightway those who were on the trees came to him, 
and all together stayed motionless until St. Francis 
had finished preaching ; and even then they did not 
depart, until he had given them his blessing. And, as 
Fra Masseo afterwards related to Fra Jacopo da Massa, 
while St. Francis went among them, though he touched 
them with his cloak, not one of them moved. The 
substance of the sermon of St. Francis was this : ' My 
sister birds, you are greatly beholden to God your 
Creator, and always and in every place you should 
praise Him, for He has given you the liberty of flying 
everywhere, and also double and threefold raiment 
has He given you ; next, because He preserved your 
seed in the ark of Noah, in order that your kind might 
not come to an end in the world ; also you are beholden 
to Him for the element of the air which He has assigned 
to you. Besides this, you neither sow nor reap ; and 
God feeds you, and gives you the rivers and the springs 
for your drink, and He gives you the mountains and the 

108 



THE "LITTLE FLOWERS" OF ST. FRANCIS 

valleys for your shelter, and the high trees for you to 
make your nests ; and, since you can neither spin nor 
sew, God clothes you and your little ones. Thus the 
Creator loves you much, since He gives you so many 
benefits, and therefore beware, my sisters, of the sin 
of ingratitude, but strive always to praise God.' When 
St. Francis said these words, all those birds began to 
open their beaks, to stretch out their necks, to spread 
out their wings, and reverently to bow their heads 
even to the ground, and with their movements and their 
songs to show that the words of the holy father gave 
them very great delight. And St. Francis rejoiced and 
delighted with them, and marvelled much at so great 
a multitude of birds and their beauty and variety and 
their attention and tameness ; for which thing he 
with them devoutly praised the Creator." l 

It is a noteworthy testimony to the wide diffusion 
of this episode in the life of St. Francis that we find it 
already painted in 1235, in the altarpiece by Bonaven- 
tura Berlinghieri at Pescia, and also related by the 
English chronicler, Roger of Wendover, who wrote 
before 1236. Roger of Wendover lays the scene 
outside Rome (instead of near Bevagna on the road 
from Assisi to Morttefalco), and represents the Saint 
as leaving the city and going to the birds because the 
Romans refused to hear him. There is a note of 
bitterness in his discourse : "I bid you in the name 
of Jesus Christ, whom the Jews crucified and whose 

1 Cap. XVI. Cf. Thomas of Celano, Legenda prima, (i) xxi. 58. 

109 



ST. FRANCIS 



preaching the miserable Romans have despised, to 
come to me and hear the word of God, in the name of 
Him who created you and delivered you in the ark of 
Noah from the waters of the flood." He preaches to 
them for three days, until the Roman clergy and people 
come to fetch him back with honour into the city. 1 
We see that this is a sadly perverted form of the story. 
In the Fioretti, it is sheer love of the birds that moves 
Francis to address them, and the whole spirit of the 
scene is one of pure joy in nature as the handiwork of 
God. But, even in the Fioretti, there is the manifestly 
later attempt to improve the occasion and point a moral : 
" Finally, having finished his sermon, St. Francis 
made the sign of the Cross over them, and gave them 
leave to depart ; and then all those birds in a flock 
rose up into the air with marvellous songs ; and after- 
wards, according to the cross which St. Francis had made 
upon them, they divided into four parts ; one part 
flew towards the east and another towards the west, 
the third towards the south, the fourth towards the 
north, and each flock sang marvellously as it went ; 
signifying in this that, as St. Francis, the standard- 
bearer of the Cross of Christ, had preached to them, and 
had made the sign of the cross over them, according to 
which they went ofF singing into the four quarters of 
the world ; so the preaching of the Cross of Christ, 
renewed by St. Francis, should be carried by him and 
by his friars through all the world ; and these friars, in 

1 Flares Historiarum t ed. H. G. Hewlett, II. pp. 330-331. 

HO 



THE "LITTLE FLOWERS" OF ST. FRANCIS 

the fashion of birds, possessing nothing of their own 
in this world, committed their life to the providence of 
God alone." * 

There is a singular charm about all the chapters 
connected with St. Clare. The one relating how she 
ate with St. Francis and his companions at Santa Maria 
degli Angeli is surely primitive and authentic. The 
scene is simple : " In the meanwhile St. Francis had 
the table prepared on the ground, as he was wont to do. 
And, when the hour for dining was come, St. Francis 
and St. Clare sat down together, and one of the com- 
panions of St. Francis with the companion of St. Clare, 
and then all the other companions took their places at 
the table humbly. And, for the first course, St. Francis 
began to speak of God so sweetly, so loftily and so 
wondrously that, the abundance of divine grace descend- 
ing upon them, all were rapt in God." But the writer 
will not leave it at that. " And, while they stayed 
thus rapt, with eyes and hands raised to heaven, the men 
of Assisi. and Bettona and those of the country round 
saw that Santa Maria degli Angeli and all the place, and 
the wood that was then beside it, burned mightily ; 
and it seemed that it was a great fire that was taking 
hold of the church and the place and the wood together. 
For which thing the folk of Assisi with great haste 
sped down there to extinguish the fire, believing firmly 

1 Thomas of Celano (loc. cit.) has merely : " Benedixit denique ipsis et 
signo crucis facto licentiam tribuit ut ad locum alium transvolarent. Beatus 
autem pater ibat cum sociis suis per viam suam gaudens, et gratias agebat 
Deo, quern omnes creaturae confessione supplici venerantur." 

Ill 



ST. FRANCIS 



that every thing was burning." l The underlying 
mystical conception is beautiful and significant we 
find it again in the account of the reception of the 
Stigmata but the writer has materialised the symbolism 
somewhat as later Italian poets, like Tebaldeo, were 
to materialise the imagery of Petrarca. The story of 
how St. Clare was miraculously conveyed on Christmas 
night to hear the office in the church of San Francesco 9 
and received Holy Communion there, is clearly a later 
elaboration of the episode in her Legend where she 
hears all the music and the singing, but with no hint of 
her having been materially transported to the building. 2 
Yet I do not think that there are many cases in th: 
Fioretti of pure literary elaboration. One unques- 
tionably is the long story of the " nobilissima visione " 
of the robber whom St. Francis converted to become a 
most holy friar. It is obviously modelled upon the 
earlier mediaeval visions of the other world, like those 
in the Dialogues of St. Gregory and the Vision of 
Tundal, with the motive of the " Bridge of Dread " 
which had already become antiquated by the time that 
Dante wrote the Divina Commedia? 

The great chapter on Holy Poverty, where St. Francis 
and Fra Masseo beg bread for the love of God and 
finally make their way to Rome, has that most note- 
worthy discourse, placed on the lips of the Saint, which 

* Cap. XV. 

2 Cap. XXXV. Cf. Legenda Sanctae Clarae Virginis (attributed to Thomas 
of Celano), ed. F. Pennacchi (Assisi, 1910), pp. 4042. 

3 Cap. XXVI. 

112 



Plate V. 




By the courtesy of Sir Joseph Diiveen. 
St. Francis renouncing his heritage 
By Sassetta (1444). 



ST. FRANCIS 



that every thing was burning." * The underlyinj 
mystical conception is beautiful and significant w 
find it again in the account of the reception of th 
Stigmata but the writer has materialised the symbolisn 
somewhat as later Italian poets, like Tebaldeo, wer 
to materialise the imagery of Petrarca. The story o 
how St. Clare was miraculously conveyed on Christma 
night to hear the office in the church of San Francesco 
and received Holy Communion there, is clearly a late 
elaboration of the episode in her Legend where sh< 
hears all the music and the singing, but with no hint o 
her having been materially transported to the building. 
Yet I do not think that there are many cases in th 
Fioretti of pure literary elaboration. One unques 
tionably is the long story of the " nobilissima visione ' 
of the robber whom St. Francis converted to become ; 
most holy friar. It is obviously modelled upon th< 
earlier mediaeval visions of the other world, like thos 
in the Dialogues of St. Gregory and the Vision o 
Tundal, with the motive of the " Bridge of Dread ' 
which had already become antiquated by the time tha 
Dante wrote the Divina Commedia? 

The great chapter on Holy Poverty, where St. Franci 
and Fra Masseo beg bread for the love of God an< 
finally make their way to Rome, has that most note 
worthy discourse, placed on the lips of the Saint, whicl 

1 Cap. XV. 

2 Cap. XXXV. Cf. Legenda Sanctae Clarae Virginis (attributed to Thorns 
of Celano), ed. F. Pennacchi (Assisi, 1910), pp. 4042. 

a Cap. XXVI. 

112 



Plate V 




By the courtesy of Sir Joseph 
St. Francis renouncing his heritage 
Hy Sassetta (1444). 



THE "LITTLE FLOWERS" OF ST. FRANCIS 

invites comparison with the prayer given by Ubertino 
da Casale which, as we saw, is echoed in the 
Paradiso : 

ct Dearest companion, let us go to St. Peter and 
St. Paul, and pray them to teach and help us to possess 
the immeasurable treasure of most holy Poverty ; for 
she is a treasure so all worthy and so divine, that we 
are not worthy to possess in our most lowly vessels ; 
inasmuch as she is that heavenly virtue through which 
all things earthly and transitory are trampled under 
foot, and every obstacle is removed from before the soul, 
in order that it may freely unite itself with God eternal. 
This is that virtue which makes the soul, while still 
placed on earth, converse in heaven with the Angels. 
This is she who accompanied Christ upon the Cross ; 
with Christ she was buried, with Christ she rose again, 
with Christ she mounted into Heaven ; and it is she 
who, even in this life, gives to the souls who are 
enamoured of her the means of flying to Heaven ; 
inasmuch as she guards the weapons of true humility 
and charity. And, therefore, let us pray the most holy 
Apostles of Christ, who were perfect lovers of this evan- 
gelical pearl, that they beg for us this grace from Our 
Lord Jesus Christ, that, by His most holy mercy, He may 
grant us to merit to be true lovers and observers and 
humble disciples of the most precious and most beloved 
evangelical Poverty." 1 

It is inevitable that Brother Elias should fare badly 

1 Cap. XIII. Cf. above. St. Francis and Dante, p. 86. 
I 113 



ST. FRANCIS 



in the FiorettL Almost at the beginning of the book, 
he is studiously contrasted with Fra Bernardo, the 
" figliuolo primogenito " of St. Francis. It is the some- 
what comic story of the impatient Angel who knocks at 
the door of the convent, asks an awkward question of 
Elias, and has the door shut in his face ; whereas he is 
presently saluted kindly by Bernardo. The point of 
the question, " if the observers of the holy Gospel are 
permitted to eat whatever is put before them as Christ 
bade His disciples," is a reflection upon the modifications 
of the original Franciscan constitution which Elias 
had attempted to introduce during the lifetime of 
St. Francis. 1 The Saint rebukes him : " You do ill, 
proud Brother Elias, to drive from us the holy Angels 
who come to teach us. I tell thee that I fear mightily 
lest thy pride make thee end outside of this Order." 
The story is obviously sheer fiction, as also its sequel 
where St. Francis knows in spirit that Elias is damned 
and will die out of the Order, but nevertheless, at his 
entreaties, by his prayers obtains his final salvation. It 
is a striking story, finely and pathetically told, but 
utterly perverting the relations that actually existed 
between the two men, the one historical element in it 
being the reception of the sacraments by the fallen and 
excommunicated minister-general on his deathbed, 
here put forth as the crowning effect of the prayers of 
St. Francis that could save even his apostate son from the 



1 Cap. IV. Cf. Father Cuthbert, Life of St. Francis of Assist (London, 
1912), pp. 240, 241. 



THE "LITTLE FLOWERS" OF ST. FRANCIS 

sentence of damnation. 1 Probably St. Francis trusted 
Elias to the last, even though the Fioretti tells us " how 
St. Francis blessed the holy Brother Bernard, and 
left him his vicar when he was about to pass from this 
life." The account of the blessing is of singular 
historical importance and interest : 

" When St. Francis drew near to death like that holy 
patriarch Jacob, and his devoted sons were around him, 
full of sorrow and weeping at the passing of so be- 
loved a father, he asked : ' Where is my first-begotten ? 
Come to me, son, that my soul may bless thee before I 
die.' Then Brother Bernard said in secret to Brother 
Elias, who was vicar of the Order : ' Father, go on the 
right hand of the Saint, that he may bless thee.' And, 
when Brother Elias placed himself at the right hand, 
St. Francis, who had lost his sight through excess of 
tears, placed his right hand on the head of Brother 
Elias, and said : ' This is not the head of my first- 
begotten Brother Bernard.' Then Brother Bernard went 
to him on the left hand ; and St. Francis then crossed 
his arms in the fashion of a cross, and placed his right 
hand on the head of Brother Bernard and his left on 
the head of Brother Elias, and said to Brother Ber- 
nard : ' The Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ bless 
thee in every spiritual and heavenly blessing in Christ. 
Even as thou art the first chosen in this holy Order to 
give the evangelical example of following Christ in 
evangelical poverty, for not only didst thou give what 

1 Cap. XXXVIII. 

115 



ST. FRANCIS 



thou hadst, and distribute it entirely and freely to the 
poor for the love of Christ, but didst also offer thyself 
to God in this Order in sacrifice of sweetness ; blessed 
be thou then by Our Lord Jesus Christ and by me, His 
poor little servant, with eternal blessings in thy going and 
staying, waking and sleeping, living and dying. May he 
who blesses thee be full of blessings, and he who curses 
thee not remain without punishment. Be thou the 
chief of thy brethren, and let all the friars obey thy 
command ; have thou power to receive into this Order 
and to expel from it whomso thou shalt wish ; and let 
no friar have rule over thee, and be it lawful to thee to 
go and to stay wherever thou shalt please." * 

The pathetic beauty of the scene, the overflowing 
love of the dying Saint, the touching humility of Ber- 
nardo's attempt not to usurp the rights of Elias, speak 
for themselves. But Thomas of Celano in the account 
he gives in the Legenda prlma makes no mention of 
Bernardo. St. Francis calls to himself certain of the 
friars (they are not named) and blesses each; then, 
crossing his hands, he lays the right on the head of 
Elias, and gives him a special blessing. This is before 
he is transported to the Portiuncula. Afterwards, a 
brother " whom the Saint loved with exceeding great 
love " (evidently Bernardo) is bidden bless the whole 
Order in his name. 2 Later, in the Legenda secunda, 
Celano says that the Saint stretched out his right hand 
over all the friars present, and, " beginning with his 



1 Cap. VI. a Legenda prima, (ii) vii. 108, viii. 109. 

116 



THE "LITTLE FLOWERS" OF ST. FRANCIS 

vicar, placed it upon the head of each " the writer 
insisting that it was a general blessing upon the whol : 
Order and not to be usurped by an individual. 1 
St. Bonaventura, who puts the event when the Saint 
was at the point of death, has simply : " While all the 
brethren sat around, he stretched out his hands over 
them, crossing his arms in the form of a cross, because 
he always loved this sign, and, in the virtue and name of 
the Cross, blessed all the friars both present and absent." 2 
In the Speculum Perfectionis, Bernardo asks for the bless- 
ing. The Saint lays his right hand upon the head of 
Egidio, and then, saying : " This is not the head of 
my brother Bernard," transfers it to the latter, and gives 
him the blessing, ending with the words : " Whence I 
will and enjoin as far as I am able, that whoever shall 
be minister-general shall love and honour him as myself. 
Let the ministers, also, and all the brethren of the 
whole Order hold him in my stead." 3 It would then 
seem clear that the two factions in the Order disputed 
as to which had been thus specially chosen, the first 
follower or the vicar-general, to represent Francis after 
his death. The compiler of the Actus has, perhaps, 
combined two different events, and, unable to deny the 
presence of Elias, has either transferred his blessing to 
Bernardo or given to the latter's blessing a significance 
which the Saint himself never intended. 4 

1 Legenda secunda, (ii) clxii. 216. z Legenda maior, xiv. 5. 

3 S-peculum Perfectionis, ed. Sabatier, cap. evil. 

4 Cf. E. Lempp, Trfae Elie de Cortone (Paris, 1901), pp. 65-68 ; Father 
Cuthbert, of. cit., pp. 375, 388 n. 

117 



ST. FRANCIS 



The deathbed repentance of Elias ends the first group 
of stories. It is followed, as a kind of supplement, by the 
two chapters about St. Antony of Padua, probably here 
introduced as one of the chief opponents of the work of 
Elias, 1 and the first Franciscan canonised after St. Francis 
himself. The two miracles here attributed to him the 
sermon preached before the Pope and Cardinals in con- 
sistory, when each heard him in his own tongue, and the 
preaching to the fishes at Rimini are not found in either 
of the two earliest lives of the Saint. 2 As in Roger of 
Wendover's version of St. Francis' preaching to the birds, 
Antony preaches to the fishes of the sea because the here- 
tics of Rimini will not hear his words, and these heretics 
are, of course, converted by the miracle. The Legenda 
prima written a few years after his death speaks of 
his preaching to the people of Rimini and converting 
heretics there, but with no hint of the fishes. The 
story appears probably slightly earlier than the com- 
pilation of the Actus (Fioretti) in the life of St. Antony 
by Jean Rigauld, a French friar who died at Rome in 
1323 ; but, instead of Rimini, the scene is laid by him 
near Padua on the Brenta. 3 It is natural to suppose 

1 Capp. XXIX-XL. Cf. Legenda secunda, in Ada Sanctorum for June 13, 
pp. 203-4. 

8 Legenda prima, ed. L. de Kerval (Sancti Antonii de Padua vitae duae, 
Paris, 1904), written between 1232 and 1245 ; Legenda secunda, by Julian of 
Speyer (the Vita auctore anonymo in A eta Sanctorum, June 13). Both miracles 
are in the Liber Miraculorum of the Bollandists (loc. cit.), which is simply from 
the Chronica XXIV Generalium, in the same form as in the Acius (Fiorettf). 

3 Vita beati Antonii de ordine Fratrum Minorum a fratre Joanne Rigaldi 
de eodem ordine ordinata (La vie de Saint Antoine de Padoue par Jean Rigauld, 
ed. P. F.-M. d'Araules. Bordeaux, 1899). 

118 



THE "LITTLE FLOWERS" OF ST. FRANCIS 

that the legend is a later replica of the story of St. 
Francis ; but the sermon, as given in the Fiorettt, 
though closely modelled upon that to the birds, is a 
beautiful thing in itself, with a touch of that true 
Franciscan spirit which made Antony one of the 
worthiest followers of the Seraphic Father. 

Then follows the story of Fra Simone of Assisi, 
which is a kind of link between the two groups of 
Fiorettt. Chronologically he is one of the friars who 
entered the Order while St. Francis still lived, but his 
own life was for the most part passed in the March of 
Ancona. Of him, too, Ugolino if he is the writer 
has learned from Fra Jacopo da Massa : " One evening, 
when he had gone into the wood with Fra Jacopo da 
Massa to speak of God, and he was speaking most sweetly 
of the Divine Love, they stayed all night in that talk, 
and, when morning came, it seemed to them that they 
had been a very brief space of time, as the said Fra 
Jacopo told me." 1 Simone anticipates what Sabatier 
regards as the characteristic feature of the friars in the 
second group of Fioretti : the emphasis being no longer 
laid upon the glory of Poverty, but upon the joys of 
mystical contemplation. This, however, has already 
appeared, to some extent, from the outset in the person 
of Fra Bernardo. 2 

The second group deals with the lives of the friars 
of the province of the March of Ancona, Ugolino's 
own region. " The province of the March of Ancona 
* Cap, XLI. * Cf. Cap. XXVIII. 



ST. FRANCIS 



was of old, even as the sky with stars, adorned with 
holy and exemplary friars, who like the luminaries 
of heaven have illumined and adorned the Order of 
St. Francis and the world with examples and with 
teaching." * Some belong to the earliest Franciscan 
generation ; like Fra Pacifico, in that beautiful story of 
the love of the two brothers in the Order, if he indeed 
be the same as that chief of minstrels who in the world 
had been called " rex versuum " and had been " in- 
ventor saecularium cantionum," and had been crowned 
by the Emperor ; he whom Francis had converted at 
San Severino. 2 Others, notably Currado da Offida, 
" mirabile zelatore della evangelica poverta e della 
regola di santo Francesco " (which means that he was 
a leader of the spirituals), 3 and Giovanni della Verna, 
are the contemporaries of Fra Ugolino himself and of 
Dante. They illustrate the words that Bonaventura 
utters to Dante, from the standpoint of 1300, when he 
admits that the true Franciscan spirit is still to be found 
in a few here and there : 



" Ben dico, chi cercasse a foglio a foglio 
nostro volume, ancor troveria carta 
u' leggerebbe : ' I' mi son quel ch'i'soglio ' " 4 

even though the spiritual colour of their lives, absorbed 

1 Cap. XLII. 

2 Cf. Celano, Legenda secunda, (ii) Ixxii, 106 ; U. Cosmo, in Giornale 
Storico della Letteratura Italiana, XXVIII ; F. Torraca, Studi di Storia Letter aria 
(Florence, 1923), pp. 43, 44. Torraca shows that the Emperor who crowned 
Pacifico was probably, not Henry VI, but Otto IV. 

3 Cap. XLIII. 1 4 Par. XII. 121-123. 

I2O 



THE "LITTLE FLOWERS" OF ST. FRANCIS 

for the most part in contemplation and visions away 
from the world in lonely convents, is not, in all respects, 
that of the first band of followers. 

Indeed, Dante's own chief guide in Franciscan 
matters, St. Bonaventura himself, is severely handled, 
in the famous chapter : " How Fra Jacopo da Massa 
saw all the friars minor of the world in the vision of a 
tree, and knew the virtue and the merits and the 
vices of each." It is an allegorical representation of 
the deposition of John of Parma, the leader of the 
spiritual party, and the succession of Bonaventura to 
the minister-generalship. John of Parma has drunk 
fully of the chalice of life which St. Francis has offered 
to his followers, and, having thereby " profoundly con- 
templated the abyss of the infinite divine light," has 
descended from the summit of the tree. Fra Bona- 
ventura, " who had taken part of the chalice and had 
poured out part," mounts up into the place which he 
has left ; and straightway the nails of his hands become 
iron claws sharp as razors, and he hurls himself upon 
John to do him hurt. But John calls upon Christ, who 
gives St. Francis a flint with which he cuts the nails of 
Fra Bonaventura so as to render him harmless. A 
great tempest smites the tree and it falls, but " from 
the root of this tree, which was of gold, there came 
forth another tree which was all of gold, which produced 
leaves and flowers and golden fruit." We are to under- 
stand that the via media of Bonaventura will lead to the 
destruction of the Order, but from the pure Franciscan 

121 



ST. FRANCIS 



stock it will arise again in the perfect spirit of its founder. 
Now this chapter is not included in the majority of 
manuscripts of the Actus, though it is in Mr. Little's 
manuscript ; it occurs, in a very similar form, in the 
Historia septem trlbulatwnum, written about 1325 by 
Angelo da Clareno, the leader of the Fraticelli who 
formed a separate body in the Order. It is usually 
regarded as an interpolation into the body of the 
Actus ; the narrator, who had such great desire to 
speak with Fra Jacopo and who narrates the vision as 
delivered to him, being not Ugolino, but Angelo da 
Clareno. 1 But it is still possible to take the view that 
the chapter does form part of the Actus, and was bor- 
rowed by Angelo da Clareno, the " I " being again 
Ugolino. We should, in this case, have to suppose that 
this was Ugolino's first introduction to Fra Jacopo da 
Massa, whose vision would have given him that general 
conception of Franciscan ideals which the Actus 
Fioretti reveal. 2 It may be observed that elsewhere, 
for the Italian writer of the Fioretti, Bonaventura is 
" il santo frate Bonaventura." 3 

But the great figure in the closing chapters of the 
Fioretti is Giovanni da Fermo, known as blessed Gio- 

1 Cap. XLVIII. Cf. F. Ehrle, Die "historia septem tnbulationum ordinis 
minorum " des fr. Angelus de Clarino, in Arcbiv fur Litteratur- und Kirchen- 
geschichte des Mittelalters, II (Berlin, 1886), pp. 279-281 ; A. G. Little, 
op. cit., pp. 46-47. The Italian version is somewhat confused. 

2 Cf. Garavani, op. cit., i. pp. 292-297. 

3 In the Consider azioni. 

122 



THE "LITTLE FLOWERS" OF ST. FRANCIS 

vanni della Verna from his long residence in that con- 
vent, " nel crudo sasso intra Tevero e Arno," on the 
spot that had witnessed the supreme mystery in the 
life of St. Francis. Dante may well have known him, 
for, when the poet was in the Casentino in 1311 during 
the Italian expedition of Henry of Luxemburg, the 
friar was guardian of the convent. Like his friend 
Jacopone da Todi (to whom, according to the latter's 
legend, he administered the last sacraments), Giovanni 
della Verna is one of the purest types of later Franciscan 
mysticism ; not entirely in the very spirit of St. Francis, 
who would most certainly not have approved of the 
youthful austerities attributed to him. 1 I will not 
quote the wonderful chapter, " How Christ appeared 
to Fra Giovanni della Verna," for it must be read in 
its entirety ; it is unmistakably a genuine document 
of mystical experience, setting forth how Fra Giovanni 
on the sacred mountain was all enkindled with the love 
of Christ, how after three years he was deprived of this 
ray and flame of divine love, and plunged into that 
state of spiritual dryness which mystics call the Dark 
Night of the Soul, how he sought Christ through the 
wood and pursued the Divine Vision until it turned 
to him, and how, when the vision passed away, its fruits 
abode with him. It is the counterpart of Francis 
Thompson's Hound of Heaven ; the soul's quest of 
adored Reality instead of that Reality's quest of the 
soul. These are but two sides of the whole mystical 

Cf. the beginning of Cap. XLIX with the end of Cap. XVIII. 

123 



ST. FRANCIS 



experience ; for the soul is solicited and sustained by the 
Reality which it seeks. 1 

Another vision of Giovanni della Verna, described 
with less detail, has singular interest for the student of 
Dante : 

" One night he was so uplifted and caught up into 
God, that he saw in Him, the Creator, all created things 
both of heaven and earth, and all their perfections 
and grades and orders distinct. And then he knew 
clearly how every created thing represented its Creator, 
and how God is above and within and without and 
beside all created things. Straightway he knew one 
God in three Persons and three Persons, in one God, 
and the infinite Charity that made the Son of God 
take flesh in obedience to the Father." 2 

It is the same as that in which Dante actualises all 
potentialities of spiritual vision in the last canto of the 
Paradiso : the vision of all Being in the vision of the 
First Cause which becomes revealed as the Mystery 
of the Blessed Trinity. Such is the form in which the 
experience of ultimate Reality took shape for the 
mystics of the fourteenth century in the momentum 
intelligentiae , after which St. Augustine and St. Monica 
sighed, the half-hour during which there is silence in 
Heaven. 

The five Consider axiom on the Stigmata stand on 



1 Cap. XLIX. Cf. Walter Hilton, Scale of Perfection (ed. Evelyn Under- 
bill), Bk. II, ch. 41. 

2 Cap. LII. 

124 



THE "LITTLE FLOWERS" OF ST. FRANCIS 

a somewhat different footing from that of the Fioretti 
proper. It would seem that the translator did not 
consider this subject treated with sufficient fullness 
in the Actus, and therefore, instead of simply translating 
the relevant chapters, took them as the basis for an 
entirely new work. He accordingly removed three 
chapters, " Of the invention of Monte La Verna and 
the vision of Brother Leo," " How the death of 
St. Francis was revealed to Madonna Jacopa di Settesoli," 
" Of Brother Leo who saw St. Francis lifted from the 
earth, and saw and touched his Stigmata," 1 wove 
them in with episodes from other sources, written and 
oral, and thus composed the most beautiful and con- 
vincing piece of Franciscan literature that we possess. 
It is true that there are incidents introduced, usually 
with admirable dramatic effect, which probably occurred 
at other epochs in the Saint's life. That wonderfully 
vivid scene at the beginning Francis coming with 
Brother Leo to the festivities at the castle of the counts 
of Montefeltro, and there meeting Messer Orlando da 
Chiusi who offers him his " monte divotissimo," La 
Verna itself in reality took place ten years before the 
reception of the Stigmata. Then, as they make their 
way to the mountain, there is the countryman in charge 
of the ass : " And, when they had gone on a little way, 
the rustic said to St. Francis : 'Tell me, art thou Brother 
Francis of Assisi ? ' St. Francis answered that he was. 
' Now take heed then,' said the rustic, ' to be as good 

i Actus, IX, XVIII, XXXIX. 

125 



ST. FRANCIS 



as thou art held by all folk, for many have great faith 
in thee ; and, therefore, I admonish thee that there be 
not in thee aught else than what folk hope.' When 
St. Francis heard these words, he did not disdain to be 
admonished by a rustic, but straightway cast himself 
to earth from the ass, and knelt before the man and 
kissed his feet, and thanked him humbly for that he had 
deigned to admonish him so charitably." The story 
comes from Thomas of Celano, 1 where it is referred to 
another occasion, and where it is not the driver of the 
ass, but a labourer working in the fields who sees the 
Saint pass and runs to question him. Again, we are told 
that it was because of the reception of the Stigmata that 
Francis summoned the Chapter General at which, feeling 
himself unable any longer to continue as minister-general, 
he appointed Pietro Cattaneo as his vicar ; 2 whereas, 
in reality, this happened some years previously, and 
Pietro was dead before the Saint received the " ultimo 
sigillo." But such details are of minor importance. 
In all essentials we are on sure ground in turning to the 
writer of the Fioretti for the fullest and most spiritually 
significant version of the crowning experience in the 
life of the Saint, of whom, in the Encyclical Letter of 
Pope Pius XI, it is said : " Men have rightly hailed him 
as ' another Christ,' because to his contemporaries, and to 
all future ages, he presented Christ living once again." 

1 Legenda secunda, (ii) ciii. 142. z Consider 'azioni, IV. 



126 



THE DILEMMA OF ST. FRANCIS AND THE 

TWO TRADITIONS 

MR. HAROLD E. GOAD, O.B.E., M.A. 



THE DILEMMA OF ST. FRANCIS AND THE 

TWO TRADITIONS 

ST BONAVENTURE,- the greatest and wisest saint of the 
second generation of the Sons of St. Francis, opens 
the twelfth chapter of his " Legenda Major " with the 
following account of a most significant episode in 
the Founder's life. We quote the text in full from the 
translation by Miss S alter. 

" The truly faithful servant and minister of Christ, 
Francis, that he might faithfully and perfectly fulfil 
all things, strove most chiefly to exercise those virtues 
that he knew, by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, were 
most pleasing unto his God. Wherefore it came to 
pass that he fell into great striving with himself by 
reason of a doubt, the which that he might end on his 
return after many days of prayer he set before the 
Brethren that were his intimates. ' What,' saith he, 
' do ye counsel, Brethren, what do ye commend ? 
Shall I devote myself unto prayer, or shall I go about 
preaching ? Of a truth, I that am little, and simple, 
and rude in speech, have received more grace of 
prayer than of speaking. Now in prayer, there seemeth 
to be the gain and heaping up of grace, in preaching, a 
certain giving out of the gifts received from Heaven ; 
K 129 



ST. FRANCIS 



in prayer, again, a cleansing of the inward feelings, 
and an union with the one, true, and highest good, 
together with a strengthening of virtue ; in preaching, 
the spiritual feet wax dusty, and many things distract 
a man, and discipline is relaxed. Finally, in prayer, 
we speak with God and hear Him, and live the life of 
angels, while we converse with angels ; in preaching, 
we must needs practise much condescension toward 
men and, living among them as fellow-men, must 
think, see, say, and hear such things as pertain unto 
men. Yet one thing is there to set against these, the 
which in God's sight would seem to weigh more than 
they all, to wit, that the only-begotten Son of God, 
Who is the highest wisdom, left His Father's bosom 
for the salvation of souls, that, instructing the world by 
His ensample, He might preach the word of salvation 
unto men, whom He both redeemed at the cost of His 
sacred Blood, and cleansed in a laver and gave them 
to drink, keeping back nothing of Himself, but for our 
salvation freely bestowing all. And forasmuch as we 
ought to do all things after the pattern of those things 
that was shown us in Him as on a lofty mount, it seemeth 
that it might be more acceptable unto God that, laying 
aside leisure, I should go forth unto the work ! ' And 
albeit for many days he pondered over such sayings with 
the Brethren, he could not of a surety discern whether 
of the twain he should choose as more truly pleasing 
unto Christ. For albeit he had known many won- 
drous things through the spirit of prophecy, he was not 

130 



THE DILEMMA OF ST. FRANCIS 

able thereby to resolve this question clearly, the provi- 
dence of God better ordaining, so that the merit of 
preaching might be made evident by an heavenly 
oracle, and the humility of Christ's servant be kept 
intact. 

" He, true Brother Minor, was not ashamed to 
ask little things from those less than himself, albeit he 
had learnt great things from the greatest Teacher. 
For with an especial zeal he was wont to enquire after 
what way and manner of life he might most perfectly 
serve God according to His will. This was his highest 
philosophy, this his highest desire, so long as he lived, 
so that he would enquire of wise and simple, of perfect 
and imperfect, of young and old, in what way he might 
with most holiness attain unto the summit of perfection. 
Therefore, calling unto him twain of the Brethren, he 
sent them unto Brother Silvester he that had seen the 
Cross proceeding from his mouth, and was at that time 
giving himself up unto continuous prayer in the moun- 
tain above Assisi that he might seek an answer from 
God concerning this doubt, and announce it unto 
him from the Lord. This same bidding he laid upon 
the holy virgin Clare, that through some of the purer 
and simpler of the virgins that were living under her 
rule, yea, and through her own private prayers united 
with those of the other Sisters, she might ascertain the 
will of the Lord touching this matter. The reverend 
priest and the virgin vowed to God were marvellously 
in agreement concerning this, the Holy Spirit revealing 



ST. FRANCIS 



it unto them, to wit, that it was the divine will that 
the herald of Christ should go forth to preach. When, 
therefore, the Brethren returned, and according unto 
what they had learned, pointed out the will of God, 
Francis forthwith rose and girded himself, and without 
delay set forth upon his journey. And with such 
fervour did he go, to fulfil the divine behest, and with 
such speed did he hasten on his way, that he 
seemed the hand of the Lord being upon him to 
have put on new power from Heaven." 

Such is the account of this all-important crisis and 
its solution, as given by that great Minister-General, 
St Bonaventure, in his-" Greater Legend," which was 
written at the request of the Chapter-General of Nar- 
bonne in the year 1260. 

The narrations of medieval religious writers, how- 
ever saintly, are not always guiltless of that reproach 
of many latter-day historians, namely of reading into 
past events contemporary prejudices and not infre- 
quently emphasizing or even inventing episodes tending 
to support their point of view. Thus the First Life of 
St Francis by Thomas of Celano, written at the com- 
mand of Gregory IX and under the influence of his 
agent, Ex- Vicar-General Elias, undoubtedly reflects 
the official view of the Saint's ideal at the moment of 
writing, that is, about two years after his death. The 
point for us is whether it did not also represent, as we 
believe, the opinion of the vast majority of the Friars, 

132 



THE DILEMMA OF ST. FRANCIS 

including those who knew St Francis best. The 
Second Life by the same author gives the same view 
some seventeen years later, as modified by the fall and 
apostasy of Elias and enlarged by memoirs of the First 
Companions, compiled by order of Crescentius. The 
" Greater Legend " of St Bonaventure is the view of a 
great scholar, based on all these and other material, 
that his travels as Minister-General enabled him to 
collect at a period when most of the first Brothers were 
still living. This also, we believe, reflects the opinion 
of the whole Order, except that of a small minority of 
hermits. 

But in the early fourteenth century, when for 
divers reasons the hermit section in the Order had 
placed itself in definite opposition to the Hierarchy and 
to the larger or apostolic section, a number of books 
appeared, the best-known being the " Speculum Per^- 
fectionis," and the " Actus Beati Francisci et Sociorum 
Ejus " (translated as the " Fioretti " or " Little Flowers 
of St Francis "), which embodied a different point of 
view, a tradition of St Francis the Hermit, which will 
not fit with the older portrait, the tradition of St Francis 
the Apostle. We desire briefly to consider the respec- 
tive claims of these two traditions upon our credence. 

It is, of course, in the last resort conceivable that 
St Bonaventure may have invented this particular 
episode, for many such episodes in Franciscan books 
were invented with a purpose such as, we suggest, that 
repulsive miracle with which the " Speculum Perfec- 
ts 



ST. FRANCIS 



tionis " opens, the story of Christ's audible Voice from 
Heaven, speaking in anger to the discontented Ministers 
in answer to a question addressed to Him by St Francis, 
and declaring with emphatic repetitions that the Rule, 
which St Francis had just drawn up, was written by 
God only and must be followed to the letter without 
gloss, on pain of expulsion from the Order. Scarcely 
historical seems the story of the Angel, who according 
to the " Fioretti " knocked at the door of the hermitage 
at Farneto, demanding to see Elias, in order to ask him 
why he had forbidden the Brethren to eat flesh and 
made certain other ordinances contrary to evangelical 
liberty ; while the tale of how St Clare ate with St. 
Francis at the Portiuncula, and the people of Assisi and 
Bevagna hurried down, thinking the friary and the 
wood was burning on account of the great radiance that 
shone out from them, seems in view of our knowledge 
from the Bull of her Canonisation and her biography 
by Thomas of Celano that the Seraphic Mother never 
left St. Damiano from the moment she was first taken 
there by St Francis to be no more than an argument 
to prove that the " Poor Ladies " might on occasion 
go out and beg, not be for ever dependent on the 
Friars. Many other similar stories might be quoted 
from those most beautiful books. 

But this episode in St Bonaventure's Legend sounds 
authentic. In the first place, it is characteristically 
Franciscan both in substance and in detail. Secondly, it 
is told also in the " Fioretti " with some added points, as 

134 



THE DILEMMA OF ST. FRANCIS 

that Masseo was the messenger. Moreover, we feel that 
St Francis with his love of nature, his humility and the 
example of many saintly hermits would certainly have 
preferred his " life of angels," but for an inward sense 
that his mission was to men. We must remember that 
he had begun his religious life as a solitary, dwelling 
alone in the ruins of the old Benedictine house at St 
Mary of the Angels in the midst of the far-stretching 
forest. Here, however, he had been commanded to 
go forth to preach by an inspiration received from the 
Gospel of St Matthew : " Go ye to the lost sheep of 
the House of Israel, and as ye go, preach, saying, The 
Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, raise 
the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils. Freely 
ye have received, freely give." There is no question 
of a life of solitary prayer. Poverty is enjoined, but 
for a reason. " Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor 
brass in your purses ; nor scrip for your journey ; 
neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves ; for 
the workman is worthy of his meat." The workman 
was to be provided for in return for special service. 
St Francis had carried out these orders literally ; cast 
away shoes and staff, girt himself with a cord, gone 
into cities and villages, preached and converted. How 
was it that he now began to hesitate ? 

The more recent experience of his life was such 
as to cause him to believe that God wished him after 
all to devote himself to a life of contemplation. On the 
one hand, his first attempt to preach to the heathen had 

135 



ST. FRANCIS 



been discouraging. Setting out for Syria, he had 
been shipwrecked off Dalmatia and forced to return 
to Ancona. On the other, while travelling homewards 
through the Marches, he had attended a festival at the 
Castle of Montefeltro and there won the friendship of 
Count Orlando of Chiusi, who had given him the 
mountain of Alvernia, a place which by reason of its 
seclusion and its beauty would seem almost unique as 
a sanctuary for prayer. Nevertheless the doubts per- 
sisted, with what results" we have just seen. 

We merely note in passing one significant discrep- 
ancy between the two accounts of the same incident, 
that whereas St Bonaventure emphasizes the Founder's 
obedience and attributes his hesitation to the desire 
of God to make the merit of preaching the more 
evident by a heavenly oracle, the hermit author of the 
" Fioretti " lays stress on the Saint's humility and 
limits his doubt as to " whether he ought to be wholly 
intent upon prayer or sometimes ought to preach." 

But for Francis the immediate success of his new 
mission must have been proof that his decision was 
God's will. At Cannara, we are told, the entire popu- 
lation came out into the fields to meet him and after 
his sermon asked to a man to be admitted to his Order. 
He was obliged to send them back to their homes with 
a promise to devise a means for their salvation, a promise 
wherein, it is claimed, lay the first seed of his Third 
Order. 

From St Bonaventure and Thomas of Celano's 

136 



THE DILEMMA OF ST. FRANCIS 

" Legends " it is not difficult to reconstruct these mis- 
sionary journeys. Wherever he went crowds followed. 
When he was seen approaching a village, church- 
bells sounded, the peasants left their fields and went 
forth to meet him with boughs of olive in their hands. 
Conducted to an open space within or without the 
walls, with a flat stone for pulpit, this ill-favoured, 
eager, little friar in his torn, worn, dirty habit 
would pour forth streams of ardent and unlettered 
eloquence, illustrated, one would suppose, by homely 
parables and pointed by passionate appeals for repent- 
ance. If we may judge from his letters, one of his 
most frequent themes must have been a plea for rever- 
ence for the secular priests and devotion to the Sacra- 
ment ; indeed some of his later journeys must almost 
have resembled Eucharistic missions. At other times 
he appealed for peace between warring factions, as 
when Thomas of Spalato heard him at Bologna and 
when he expelled the devils of discord from Arezzo. 
In all this his preaching must have vividly contrasted 
with the railings of the heretics, with their fantastic 
doctrines, their denunciations of the prelates .and the 
older Orders, and their frequent attacks upon secular 
authority, as well as with the doctrinal and doubtless 
somewhat arid homilies of the Bishops, delivered in the 
conventional Latin of the period. New to men must 
have been this ex tempore appeal in its obvious sincerity, 
its single-hearted passion for peace and the saving of 
souls. Yet, apparently, his words were most difficult 

137 



ST. FRANCIS 



to remember, as witness the report of a doctor, un- 
learned and most eloquent man, to Thomas of Celano : 
" the sermons of others I can remember word for word, 
but not those of St Francis, and if so be that I do recall 
some little; it never seems to be that which issued from 
his lips." It was in his depth and ardour that lay his 
peculiar power. 

Everywhere the citizens besought the Saint to 
remain with them, to have a little hut for his friars 
beside the gate. He accepted such gifts, provided 
they were poor enough ; and thus hostels or " places " 
to dwell in with a tiny oratory sprang up in every 
city. But such fruits were by no means the meed of 
St Francis only ; the other Brethren, his imitators, met 
with like success. Bernard, the noble and once rich 
Assisan magistrate, at first received with contumely at 
Bologna, gradually by his patience won general admira- 
tion, until a rich man offered him " a place, wherein 
he could serve God conveniently," and he fled back to 
St Francis in fear for his humility, having founded the 
first Franciscan house in the famous University city. 
Thus " places " were established all over Italy and as 
the missions went farther afield, all over Catholic 
Europe. 

Next, these " places " in their turn became centres 
of conversion, to which men would apply for spiritual 
counsel and often to be vested with habit and cord. 
For some years there was not even a novitiate ; the 
Order grew rapidly, even dangerously, without due 

138 



THE DILEMMA OF ST. FRANCIS 

organisation. Who was to protect Society from the 
unworthy, the sturdy tramp, the mere impostor, who 
sheltered himself under Francis's name in order to live 
by begging ? Is it unnatural that authorities, both 
ecclesiastical and secular, began to see dangers in the 
growing movement, the one fearing a new source of 
heresy in these untrained and ignorant preachers, the 
other a vehicle of conspiracy and rebellion ? It soon 
became evident that the Order must be organised, if 
it were not to become a peril to the world. 

The crisis was precipitated by St Francis's absence 
in the East. A rumour went about that he was dead. 
The efforts of his vicars to impose some sort of order 
only added to the confusion. The more independent 
Brothers refused to obe'y, forming themselves into 
new sects, schismatical, even heretical ; others threw 
off their vows and returned to their work in the world ; 
while a remnant retired into distant hermitages to 
watch events and pray for the Founder's return. Jor- 
dan of Giano, the chronicler for Germany, tells that 
St Francis first heard from a Syrian Pythoness that 
his Order was in confusion. Soon afterwards arrived 
a lay Brother with a copy of certain new impolitic 
regulations. Together with Peter of Cataneo, Elias of 
Beviglie and Csesar of Spires, the Saint returned to Italy, 
saw Cardinal Ugolino at Bologna and Pope Honorius 
at Orvieto and asked the latter to appoint the Cardinal 
as Protector of the Order. Peter was made Vicar- 
General, and on his death, Elias, who promptly took 

139 



ST. FRANCIS 



strong measures to stem the ruin, and, despite his many 
faults, must in the circumstances be regarded as the 
second founder of the Order. He gave each province 
a definite organisation under a Minister, who should 
supervise all the communities, each to be ruled by a 
guardian, responsible for the friars. The latter were not 
to wander about without permission or to preach without 
licence from the Bishops. Meanwhile St Francis set 
himself to draw up the Rule, which apostolic act he 
accomplished after one unsuccessful effort and repeated 
consultation with his ministers and with Cardinal 
Ugolino at Rome. 

But having in the East contracted malaria, besides 
a disease of the eyes which eventually cost him his 
sight, he was naturally henceforth less able to stand the 
strain of preaching, with the pressure of crowds that it 
entailed for him, and was therefore more and more 
obliged to withdraw himself into the hermitages. But 
such periods of spiritual recollection and repose were 
always subsidiary to the performance of his great 
apostolacy. His long fast on Alvernia led to the 
greatest apostolic act of the whole of his amazing life, 
that consummation whereby the whole of his frail 
body became a proof and a tongue to proclaim the 
truth of the Gospel of Divine Redemption. But even 
after his stigmatisation had rendered him physically 
helpless, he was constantly filled with desire to renew 
his efforts to convert mankind. "Let us begin to 
serve God better," he would cry. " All we have done 

140 



THE DILEMMA OF ST. FRANCIS 

so far is nothing ! " He caused himself to be carried 
about the little towns and villages upon an ass, exhort- 
ing and blessing the crowds as far as he was able, some- 
times even visiting as many as five places in one day. 
The enthusiasm of the populace approached fanati- 
cism ; everywhere miracles bore witness to God's will. 
Nothing is more certain than that St Francis never 
intended his Order to be an order of hermits, like 
those of St Romuald at Camaldoli or St John Gualberto 
at Vallombrosa. (A careful examination of the sequence 
of his life reveals a certain inner rhythm, wherein 
periods of solitary prayer lead up to vivid flashes of 
illumination, followed by periods of intense apostolic 
activity, thus proving that the first of the series are 
preparatory and subsidiary to the last.) At times the 
flash is so vivid as to dazzle us even to-day and to be 
in itself a supreme apostolic act. For symbols and 
parables embody for all mankind doctrines or spiritual 
lessons in strongly dramatic or imaginative form. What 
could be more apostolic than the scene of the Renun- 
ciation of the World, the parable of the Marriage 
with Lady Poverty, the .preaching to the birds, the 
Christmas crib at Greccio, the miracle of the Stigma- 
tisation, and indeed all the chief actions of the last 
years of the marvellous life ? The appeal of these 
symbolic gestes is to all the world and to all times ; 
they are not the deeds of a contemplative, but of an 
apostle. The earliest account of his life by Thomas 
of Celano is a record of apostolacy of preaching, 

141 



ST. FRANCIS 



travel, miracles of healing, ceaseless and indefatigable 
service for the conversion and consolation of his fellow- 
men. To underestimate the supreme importance of 
this transcendent factor is to upset the balance of St 
Francis's whole career and to destroy the conformity 
of his life with Christ's. 

It was in this apostolic sense that Elias ruled for 
him during the last five and a half years of his earthly 
mission. On his deathbed the blind Saint blessed his 
Vicar with a grateful benediction, praying that the 
Lord, Who had so multiplied the Brethren under his 
direction, would especially remember Jiis great labours. 
And truly these must have been very great indeed, 
for besides the many missions into distant and even 
Moslem countries, there were now " places " in almost 
every city and countless hermitages on mountain sides, 
not to speak of the care of all the houses of " Poor 
Ladies." 

The first natural result of the restrictions upon 
wandering was a great increase in the number of 
stationary friars in the larger houses with a consequent 
Labour Crisis. Hundreds or thousands of young men 
found themselves tethered to the little " places," with- 
out employment, except begging. There was nothing 
that St Francis hated more than sloth. " I worked 
with my hands," he wrote in his will, " and I desire 
that all the Brethren work at some honest trade. Let 
those who know not one learn, not desiring wages, but 
for example's sake and to drive out idleness." Hun- 

142 



THE DILEMMA OF ST. FRANCIS 

dreds of unlettered novices had to be taught some use- 
ful handicraft, for the exercise of which spacious rooms 
were needed. Another result was a great stimulus to 
study, involving libraries, and theological schools for 
priests and preachers. Thenceforth the Order inevit- 
ably became more clerical. Again, St Francis himself 
inaugurated a school of music, and soon after his death 
Friars were appointed as choir-masters at half the 
courts of Europe. 

Thus quite inevitably the little " places " grew to 
convents, the name " conventual " being given to 
those friars who dwelt in communities of over twelve 
and necessarily had certain dispensations with regard 
to laying in stores of provisions at each convenient 
season. Apparently it was the English Minister- 
General, Aymon of Faversham, who introduced kitchen- 
gardens, admirable fields of employment for the rough 
lay-brother and of recreation for the over-worked 
student, as St Bonaventure observes. But long before 
this, even during the life-time of St Francis, the 
provision of the means of livelihood for the larger 
communities, and especially for the sick, necessitated 
the transaction of business, involving even the holding 
of property, on behalf of the Brothers, by " nuncii " or 
agents, a custom that in 1230 was sanctioned by 
Pope Gregory in his Bull Quo Elongati, which gave 
much offence to the Rigourists. Furthermore, as 
regards dwellings, clusters of wooden sheds or wattle 
huts beside the city gates were no longer fit for the 

H3 



ST. FRANCIS 



housing of scores or even hundreds of men, and the 
cities, which were now rapidly overflowing their old 
circuits into new suburbs or " Borghi," soon to be 
incorporated also and surrounded by new walls, natur- 
ally insisted on replacing the first hovels by larger, 
more solid and sanitary constructions. It was pre- 
cisely in these rapidly increasing, overpopulated and 
squalid " Borghi " that the Order found its most fruit- 
ful field of apostolic work. It was here especially that 
their great bare barnlike churches proved so valuable 
for the evangelisation of the children of new social 
conditions, a new industrial class. It is idle to repeat 
that St Francis desired that his friars should preach in 
the secular churches ; the answer to that argument 
can usually be found in a reconstruction of the plan 
of the cities of his day and a comparison with the 
plan of the same cities fifty or a hundred years later. 
In the former you find a small compact mediaeval town 
of narrow streets huddled within ancient, often Roman 
walls around a Romanesque cathedral, a true People's 
House, or Duomo, with tiny parish churches ; in the 
latter you find a large and usually straggling place, 
occupying often quite three times the area, the new 
quarters each possessing a subsidiary square and a 
subsidiary Duomo in the church of one or other of 
the two great Mendicant Orders, but for which there 
would have been inadequate church room for these 
great new populations. St Francis can hardly have 
anticipated the immense part in the cities' life that his 

144 



Plate VI 




By the courtesy of Sir Joseph Dttveen. 

St. Francis before the Sultan. 
By Sassetta (1444). 



ST. FRANCIS 



housing of scores or even hundreds of men, and the 
cities, which were now rapidly overflowing their old 
circuits into new suburbs or " Borghi," soon to be 
incorporated also and surrounded by new walls, natur- 
ally insisted on replacing the first hovels by larger,, 
more solid and sanitary constructions. It was pre- 
cisely in these rapidly increasing, overpopulated and 
squalid " Borghi " that the Order found its most fruit- 
ful field of apostolic work. It was here especially that 
their great bare barnlike churches proved so valuable 
for the evangelisation of the children of new social 
conditions, a new industrial class. It is idle to repeat 
that St Francis desired that his friars should preach in 
the secular churches ; the answer to that argument 
can usually be found in a reconstruction of the plan 
of the cities of his day and a comparison with the 
plan of the same cities fifty or a hundred years later. 
In the former you find a small compact mediaeval town 
of narrow streets huddled within ancient, often Roman 
walls around a Romanesque cathedral, a true People's 
House, or Duomo, with tiny parish churches ; in the 
latter you find a large and usually straggling place, 
occupying often quite three times the area, the new 
quarters each possessing a subsidiary square and a 
subsidiary Duomo in the church of one or other of 
the two great Mendicant Orders, but for which there 
would have been inadequate church room for these 
great new populations. St Francis can hardly have 
anticipated the immense part in the cities' life that his 

144 



Plate VI 




By the courtesy of Sir Joseph Duveen. 

St. Francis before the Sultan. 
By Sassetta (1444). 



THE DILEMMA OF ST. FRANCIS 

Order was destined to play, any more than to have 
foreseen that the accession of so many priests would 
necessitate large buildings for their ministrations. But 
we are anticipating ; sufficient be it for the moment 
to remind ourselves that we should by no means over- 
look the conditions that the external world imposed 
upon the development of the Order. Whatever its 
ideals, a movement so penetrative and so economically 
dependent on the good will of the world, could only 
survive by adaptation, by securing not only clerical 
tolerance, but also civic popularity. 

That the Founder did not approve of the acquisi- 
tion of large houses we know from his refusal to enter 
the convent and hospital at Bologna and by his action 
in beginning to pull down the great hall of stone that 
the Commune of Assisi had erected at the Portiuncula. 
But the former he tolerated when the Protector of the 
Order, Cardinal Ugolino, publicly declared the build- 
ing to be his and the latter as soon as it was shown to 
be the property of the citizens. St Francis seems to 
have had no objection to living in a palace, provided 
that he was there as a sojourner and a guest. He 
dreaded lest great buildings should bring worldly cares 
and pride. But soon the world thrust them on the 
Order. 

It was the world that forced upon the Order the 

building of the great fortress-shrine to save the body 

of the Stigmatised from the plunder of more powerful 

cities or the pious fury of the relic-hunters who would 

L 145 



ST. FRANCIS 



have torn it limb from limb to distribute in jewelled 
reliquaries. Just at this time the body of St Elizabeth 
suffered horrid mutilations ; over the relics of St 
Anthony a veritable battle took place. The body of 
St Louis was divided ; that of St Roch stolen ; and 
the body of St Francis was the most precious treasure 
in the world. To-day the supercilious scoff, the 
romantic mourn for the " unfranciscan " methods of 
Pope Gregory and his agent Elias ; but no one has 
suggested what else could have been done. On an 
almost inaccessible crag a strong castle was built, to be 
at once a papal palace, a shrine for the relic, a head 
house for the Order and a barracks for a body-guard 
of friars. We do not believe that the Order was 
split upon this " rock of scandal." True, a hundred 
years later an ugly story was invented to the effect that 
certain dissidents, and Leo the Pecorello, in particular, 
threw down a bowl that Elias had set up for alms and 
were scourged and banished for the deed. But the 
Brothers must have known that the building was the 
Pope's and that he was promoting by Indulgences the 
offerings they were scattering, and that what Elias did 
he did as the Pope's agent. If they really committed 
an act of such foolish insubordination, as a protest 
against Elias' policy, how was it that none of the latter's 
enemies, such as Eccleston or Salimbene, ever recorded 
such a piquant story ? That St Clare was proud of 
the great church we know ; for to her great joy she 
was carried in spirit to it one Christmas night to hear 

146 



THE DILEMMA OF ST. FRANCIS 

the friars singing ; Thomas of Celano praises it, as 
also do the authors of the " Legend of the Three 
Companions," who speak gratefully of Gregory as its 
builder. Finally, all the earlier Brothers were buried 
in it, save Giles, who wished to be, and including Leo, 
who died in the great convent, bequeathing to it his 
most precious keepsake, the Benediction that St Francis 
wrote for him. We cite all this because it is most 
important for our subject that we should no longer 
antedate the division in the Order. 

The church that Elias built for the Pope, though 
strong and stately, was very different from the glorious 
shrine that we admire to-day. The Upper Church 
was covered by a visible wooden roof, resting on round 
arches ; was lit by simple lancet windows without 
tracery, and a plain round window at its western end ; 
and as such became the model of most of the Franciscan 
Churches erected throughout Central Italy during the 
next half-century, a model recommended by the 
Chapter of Narbonne in the year 1260. The Lower 
Church was a mere crypt for the burial of the more 
saintly Brothers around their Seraphic Father, without 
chapels, solid, plain, dark and severe. Moreover, the 
Papal Basilica at Assisi was by no means the only 
great Franciscan church built or acquired for the Order 
at this period. 

Almost contemporaneously a second great Fran- 
ciscan church was begun by the citizens of Padua for 
the miracle-working relics of St Anthony. In its 



ST. FRANCIS 



sumptuous and exuberant fantasy of incongruous detail 
this vast fane shows a curious contrast to the har- 
monious simplicity of St Francis's shrine ; but it affords 
a striking example of the way in which a powerful city 
would adopt an apostle of Holy Poverty and exalt him 
in a gorgeous temple of civic pride. The third great 
Franciscan church was the " Ara Coeli " upon the 
Capitol, a magnificent ancient basilica accepted for 
the Order by that champion of the " Spirituals," the 
Blessed John of Parma. From the middle of the cen- 
tury onwards there was much rebuilding of the earliest 
Franciscan churches and convents ; in Spello, Foligno, 
Montefalco, Spoleto, Terni, Gualdo, Nocera, Perugia, 
Cortona, Siena, Volterra, Prato, Pistoia and many 
other towns are typical examples of the great aisleless, 
wooden-roofed, barnlike structures, built especially 
for preaching, generally upon the model of Elias's 
Upper Church. Gradually these buildings became 
cemeteries for the local nobility, who erected around 
them their family chapels and deputed a famous artist 
to decorate with frescoes. 

Doubtless this was all largely the result of the policy 
of Elias, that great Vicar and afterwards Minister- 
General, who was most emphatically a follower of 
St Francis the Apostle, rather than of St. Francis the 
Hermit. In later days the hermits could never for- 
give him because he organised the Order upon apostolic 
lines. He tore the anchorites from their hill-tops and 
compelled them to work among the poor. The old 

148 



THE DILEMMA OF ST. FRANCIS 

monastic Orders, Benedictines, Cistercians and so 
forth, dwelt in dignified and scholarly seclusion ; 
Elias planted his great friaries in the mean streets 
of crowded cities, those Borghi that were soon to 
be enclosed within new walls. He encouraged the 
Brothers to follow their Founder in tending the sick 
and the lepers ; made hospitals and even medical 
schools for their greater competence in nursing. For 
preachers he opened schools of Theology, which soon 
attracted the greatest intellects ; and by his schools of 
music and the constant services in his churches he carried 
light and beauty into the darkest lives. Unfortunately, 
by his arrogance, his autocratic and rapacious methods 
and his excessive centralisation, he roused strong 
opposition, especially in the ultramontane English, 
French and German provinces, and he was overthrown 
by a powerful clique of foreign clerics, particularly 
Englishmen, though even these he might have worsted, 
had he controlled his temper. His subsequent apos- 
tasy, his joining the Emperor Frederick, whatever 
may have been the motive or provocation for that 
lamentable act, put him into the wrong for all pos- 
terity and gave the opportunity to the dissidents of a 
later generation to trace back to his slandered name 
their own particular quarrel with the Hierarchy. 

But in the next few years his successors, Albert of 
Pisa and Aymon of Faversham, obtained from the 
Papal Curia seven times as many Bulls, dispensations 
and privileges as Elias in the whole period of his rule. 

149 



ST. FRANCIS 



They decreed that official posts should be reserved 
for priests, which signified the exclusion of laymen 
from all government of the Order. The priests were 
given private cells or "Studies" for prayer and pre- 
paration of sermons, and thus was taken a long step in 
the development of the regime, against which in a 
later day the humble ignorant lay sons of Francis 
revolted in the name of Poverty. The chief point to 
note is that the division came gradually and that the 
second tradition harked back to an imaginary past to 
gain a holier sanction for its grievance. 

For albeit there were doubtless, even during the 
life-time of St Francis, zealots who clung to the strictest 
interpretation of the clauses in the Rule relating to 
Holy Poverty, and ascetics who held with St Pe-ter 
Damiani that " the world is so filthy with vices that 
any holy mind is befouled even by considering it," 
yet it is difficult to believe that more than an insignifi- 
cant minority refused to follow the Founder in his 
apostolic work. There was as yet no division, no 
united opposition to St Francis's Ministers. But as 
time went on, the Brothers tended to fall into three 
classes, dwellers in towns, inhabiting large houses, 
wanderers on the roads and hermits. The ideal of 
the first is expressed by St Bonaventure, who, like 
St Francis, according to Thomas of Celano, held that the 
Order had been raised up by God to assist the Bishops 
and the secular clergy, overwhelmed as these were by 
administrative work. Some of the Friars were to be 

150 



THE DILEMMA OF ST. FRANCIS 

occupied in study, to fit themselves for preaching and 
instructimg others ; some were to serve the Altar ; 
some were to nurse ; some were to visit, console and 
exhort the poor and ignorant ; some were to collect 
alms for the maintenance of the community ; while 
those, who had learned trades, were to work at them 
for the benefit of the Brethren and of strangers ; others, 
when directed, were to travel upon missions ; but no 
one was to be idle except he were sick. That the 
Conventuals fell away from this high ideal in some 
instances is probable, though not to the extent that 
their jealous rivals declared. The faults of the few, 
says St. Bonaventure, are only too obvious, " for that 
which is evil floats on the surface, while true holiness is 
a hidden thing to be found only by certain signs." 

Moreover, it was this ideal that inspired his great 
biography, the " Legenda Major " of the Founder. 
It is fashionable to-day to complain that this splendid 
work is little more than an " official manual, written for 
edification ! " Edification ? One is tempted to ask 
whether in the circumstances there was anything else 
that mattered. To this great book above all others we 
owe the glory of St Francis in art, in literature and 
missionary work. One feels that the saintly author 
is writing for the world at large, and not merely for 
the Order, or for the future historian ; in short, that, 
like his Master, he is above all things apostolic. For 
this reason, if for no other, in our humble judgement 
his book remains incomparably the finest general 



ST. FRANCIS 



portrait of St Francis. Thus apparently thought the 
Chapter-General of 1266, for they ordered the destruc- 
tion of all other legends, a measure that we must 
regret particularly because it has created an exaggerated 
notion of the importance of the documents that may 
have been destroyed. 

Most men regard the gifts of God as living prin- 
ciples, capable of development and self-adjustment 
to life around. Others, however, seem to consider 
inspiration as a single transcendent creative word, 
immutable for all eternity. They distrust and betray 
the law of life through a mistaken loyalty to origins. 
Not so St Francis, who, as we have seen, constantly read 
in the response of circumstance to his efforts at right 
service, the indications of God's Will as to what he should 
do next. Following his principle, we prefer to see in 
the immense success of the Franciscan ministry, in its 
missions, its great friaries and its theological schools, 
proof that this was its true line of development, rather 
than cavil, as many critics seem to do, at modifications 
of the Rule that this development implied. 

On the other hand, the little hermitages seem to 
have lost touch with life and to have fallen out of human 
favour. They produced no saint to be compared with 
St Anthony or St Bonaventure. The former is most 
emphatically to be placed among the Brothers of the 
Large Observance, not only by reason of his apostolic 
work, but by the fact that he formed part of the com- 
mission that was sent to Rome in the year 1230 to 

152 



THE DILEMMA OF ST. FRANCIS 

treat for the setting aside of certain clauses in St Francis's 
Will and that resulted in the Bull " Quo Elongati." 
The saintly lives of their few chief lights did not save 
the hermits from the bitter censure of our chronicler, 
Thomas of Celano, in his Second Life, written about 
the year 1 245, in which he writes, " they convert the 
place of contemplation into a place of leisurely repose 
and make the anchoretic life, that was instituted for 
soul's perfecting, into a sewer of pleasure ! For their 
constitution to-day," he adds, " is to live each one 
according to his will." We should not forget that 
these strong words were published at the moment 
when John of Parma was elected to the Generalship 
and that this holy man was particularly chosen for 
his energy in travel and visitation. We therefore 
believe that there was a strong conviction in the Order 
that supervision was urgently required in the smaller 
houses. 

As for the " Wanderers beyond Obedience," 
Minister-General Crescentius has strong words indeed 
for them. He accuses them of " temerariously pre- 
suming, like young asses* colts, to kick off the burden 
of Obedience," of " refusing to dwell in the convents 
of the Order " and of " wandering about the world at 
will, preaching and teaching and hearing confessions 
without authority, for the ruin of their own souls and 
the scandal of not a few." 

Further, the smaller, more remote, contemplative 
communities were naturally more exposed to the perils 



ST. FRANCIS 



of contagion from the prevalent heresies. The pro- 
phecies of the Abbot Joachim now lured away many of 
the brightest spirits of the Order, including the saintly 
Minister-General, John of Parma, into a cloud of 
mystical fantasy, wherein they attempted to exalt 
St Francis, his Rule, and themselves, as his sole followers, 
into a shining apotheosis superior to all authority. 
These foolish doctrines, though denied, condemned, 
confuted, none the less continued to infect the writings 
of the section of the dissidents for over half a century, 
forming the chief inspiration of the extremists and 
stiffening opposition to the Hierarchy. By the end 
of the third quarter of the thirteenth century a definite 
division in the Order becomes visible, the minority led 
by Peter John Olivi, a minority ready even for seces- 
sion, when twenty years later still the opportunity was 
given by the weakness of the hermit-pope, Celestine V. 
It is this section of the Order that must also take the 
blame for the Franciscan connection with the " Frati- 
celli." 

Now it was in the hermitages and at a period when 
the extremists were being persecuted in the interests 
of discipline and Catholic faith, that certain new books 
were compiled, embodying the tradition of St Francis 
the Hermit, as opposed to that of St Francis the Apostle. 
Many of their stories were already to be found in the 
earlier books, especially in the Second Life by Celano ; 
many were, no doubt, both new and true, and to others 
were added a new detail. But the question is, as a 

154 



THE DILEMMA OF ST. FRANCIS 

whole, what is their claim upon our credence, con- 
sidering their place and period of origin ? 

Other papers in this volume will deal with the 
sources of these compilations ,; it remains for us rather 
to point out their bias, which so often distorts a reported 
saying or an incident as to render the question of the 
mere antiquity of its tradition almost immaterial. 
Moreover, the very vividness of these legends makes 
them suspect ; first reports are usually blunt and crude, 
later accounts more vivid and circumstantial ; for it 
is far easier to write vivid fiction than vivid truth, 
especially when there is a spice of animus to stimulate 
imagination. On the other hand, a vivid touch is 
invariably repeated because it is particularly memor- 
able ; wherefore it is far less likely that Thomas of 
Celano in his Second Life deliberately whittled down 
good stories, than that the Speculum repeated them from 
his account or from his sources together with subse- 
quent embellishments. With regard to many of these 
stories in the Speculum there can be no question what- 
ever of the bias or imagination of their editors ; where- 
fore we feel that we must not accept as true any state- 
ment contained in them, if we detect a secondary 
motive for its narration. A great many of the episodes 
are what is called " tendencious," that is, adapted, 
interpreted or distorted to prove a point or indirectly 
censure an opponent. 

The " Speculum Perfectionis " after a positively 
blasphemous exordium, surely only credible by 



ST. FRANCIS 



extremists, has five-and-twenty chapters on the Per- 
fection of Poverty, containing many episodes of great 
beauty from St Francis* legend, many doubtless true, 
many already told, more simply, credibly and dis- 
passionately in the Second Life by Thomas of Celano. 
They teach that a friar should have no more than 
habit, cord and breeches, whereas, of course, the Rule 
allows two habits ; no books, or only few and poor ; 
should beg, a shrewd hit at the clerics, but take no 
thought whatever for the morrow, not even so much 
as to put dried beans in water overnight ! (One 
wonders how, according to the " Fioretti," Juniper 
contrived to cook sufficient provisions for a fortnight ?) 
Next there follow instances of the Saint's compassion, 
his holy humility and obedience, although here we 
have bitter complaints against the prelates and wise 
friars who would change the Order, together with harsh 
predictions that learning would be its ruin. Next, 
attached to the seventy-first chapter, is a terrible writ- 
ing, which Leo is said to have given to Conrad of 
Offida, purporting to be a verbatim report of a conversa- 
tion that St. Francis held with Christ, full of the crudest 
reproaches against the world and the Order, all except 
those few, who would be persecuted and driven out 
into the desert, yet be fed with manna, for they alone 
were the light of the world, for whose sake the Lord 
would spare mankind ! The book goes on to say how 
St Francis railed against those friars, " puffed up with 
the wind of science and the vain speeches of their 

156 



THE DILEMMA OF ST. FRANCIS 

wisdom, who say the truth is falsehood and like blind 
men persecute cruelly those that walk in light ! " This 
is indeed a different Francis, scolding, admonishing, 
denouncing, threatening, preaching by precept rather 
than example, from the Poverello we have known in 
earlier books. Towards the end again are many chapters 
of great spiritual beauty, telling of the Saint's love for 
the creatures and giving many precious episodes of the 
last years of his life. 

Even if we pass over certain obvious and surprising 
historical errors in points upon which one would have 
thought that every friar would have been informed, 
such as, for example, the substitution of Cardinal Ugolino 
for Cardinal Capocci at the famous Chapter of Mats, 
we feel that it is their spirit that condemns the authority 
of these writings, the same narrow and contentious 
spirit that animated all the chief dissidents towards the 
end of the thirteenth century, that caused Ubertino 
of Casale to leave the Order and Angelo of Clareno to 
seek the sympathy of a schismatic church. Doubtless 
before this the Conventuals had also moved a long way 
from the intention of their Founder and were inevitably 
travelling towards the day when pious laymen, such as 
the Blessed Paolo Trinci, should with the full approval 
of the Hierarchy return in their hermitages to the 
primitive observance, and John of Stroncone, St John 
of Capistrano, and, greatest of all, St Bernardino of 
Siena, should lead a growing band back to a stricter 
compromise. The point for us about the " Speculum " 

157 



ST. FRANCIS 



is that it is clearly written for the edification of the 
Order only as an appeal against the Hierarchy. The 
authors hardly seem to be aware of the existence of a 
world outside to be evangelised ; the characters in 
the book are almost exclusively friars ; St Francis in 
their pages is no more than a standing reproach to the 
worldly Brother and complacent Minister. On the 
other hand, one can hardly read a single page of the 
" Greater Legend " of St Bonaventure without realising 
that it is the persuasion, if you will, the " edification " 
of mankind in general that is the leading motive, both 
in the writing of the book and the story that it tells. 

It was from the remoter hermitages that emerged a 
little later than the " Speculum," that most exquisite 
of religious romances, the " Fioretti," a poem too 
appealing to be trustworthy for history, yet which 
embodies in most perfect form the tradition that gave it 
birth. Its stories have a subtle fragrance, as of wild 
thyme or rosemary or cypresses in the sun ; they call 
up visions of high rocks and ilex-thickets and distant 
Umbrian hill-tops bathed in golden light. They 
transport one into a fairy-land where judgement is 
suspended ; one cannot accept, but one would not 
deny ; one resigns oneself to the charm. There is a 
childlike affection and admiration between the Brothers ; 
they speak with childlike awe of one another's exploits, 
recounting the most minute and intimate details and ex- 
pecting one to accept the strangest miracles at their word. 
But the miracles in the " Fioretti " are quite unlike 

158 



THE DILEMMA OF ST. FRANCIS 

those told by Thomas of Celano, from the visit of the 
Angel who carried Bernard over a broad river ; to 
the demon who tore down the ruin of rocks on Mount 
Subasio in rage at Rufmo's constancy ; from the tale 
of Brother Bentivoglia who bore a leper fifteen miles 
upon his shoulder, travelling faster than an eagle, to 
the marvellous prophetic dream of Brother James, who 
saw all that was going to happen to the Order. The 
conversion of the Wolf of Gubbio we owe to the 
" Fioretti," as well as the greatest supernatural marvels 
that accompanied the vision of the Seraph of the 
Stigmata. The Sultan of Egypt in this romance is not 
allowed to be unconverted, nor the ultimate salvation 
of Brother Elias to remain in doubt. 

To-day, when we visit the charming little mountain 
hermitages such as the Carceri, Greccio, Poggio Bus- 
tone, Fonte Colomba, Monteluco, Stroncone, Farneto, 
Cettona, the Celle of Cortona, Monte Casale and many 
more, we everywhere find local legends, resembling 
these pretty stories, full of the same sweet natural 
magic and fragrant childlike charm. At Farneto, for 
instance, close beside the splendid road from Perugia 
to Gubbio, you will be shown the tree that grew from 
St Francis's staff, which he bade a novice plant in the 
ground and water night and morning to try the youth's 
obedience, and the knocker of the door with which 
the Angel knocked when he came to question Elias ; 
at the Carceri, on the other hand, you will see marks of 
the Devil. At the Sacro Speco above Narni you will 

159 



ST. FRANCIS 



see the well where the Saint turned water into wine, 
the cavern by which he travelled to Assisi, and the 
rock on which the Angel sat while playing to him 
on a viol. At Citerna, on the borders of Tuscany, 
you may hear of the ants that the Saint banished by a 
word from the spot where he wished to preach, and of 
the wicked woman whom he commended to the Powers 
of Evil, and who was snatched up into the air. At 
Lugnano on the border of Lazio, you will learn how 
the holy man, when preaching, ordered a duck to 
rescue a child that had been carried off by a wolf into 
the forest ; while the boatmen who row you over to 
the Isola Maggiore in Lake Trasimene, will relate how 
their predecessor in St Francis's day hesitated whether 
to obey him because of a raging storm, until the Saint 
produced a lighted taper, which, though carried high 
upon the wind as they crossed the tossing waters, for 
all the efforts of the fiends could never be put out ! 
Often one has a sense of still stranger tales, concealed 
by a local guide for fear of ridicule ; or by a friar who 
feels that the sceptical world is unworthy of such 
mysteries. 

When we compare these disconnected and fre- 
quently purposeless wonders of local legend and 
eremitic tradition with the miracles of the regular lives 
of St Francis, certain distinctive qualities stand out. 
They are obviously more naive and imaginative, more 
marvellous and more trivial ; above all, as one might 
expect from their origin, they are not apostolic healings 

1 60 



THE DILEMMA OF ST. FRANCIS 

or graces vouchsafed for the benefit of other men, but 
rather supernatural favours, rewards and consolations, 
given by God for his particular favourites in return for 
their love for Him. With all their poetry, these tales 
are far removed from ordinary human business ; 
mediaeval, whereas St Francis the Apostle was the first 
man of our world. Their principal topics are mystical 
experiences, visions and dreams, ecstasies, raptures and 
temptations, the possession of the soul by God, or by 
the Devil. In our modern life, wherein charitable 
organisation has grown commonplace and romantic 
mysticism is very much in vogue, these stories are 
naturally popular, especially among those who do not 
take religion very seriously. They are the natural 
product of the hermit section of the Franciscan Order, 
and, like enough, would have been its only fruit had 
the answer of Silvestro and St Clare been other than 
it was. 

Otherwise also would have run the history of our 
civilisation if the inspiration of St Francis had been 
lacking to art, literature, philosophy, in short, to all the 
larger world of thought. Had St Francis followed the 
example of St Bruno, there would have been no great 
friaries in populous cities, but only a host of tiny 
hermitages scattered over Umbrian h,ills. Ragged and 
ignorant friars might have wandered begging, or 
lurked in lonely cells, forgotten by the world. Who 
could have protected them from the prevalent mystic 
heresies, or saved those who were merely tramps from 

M 161 



ST. FRANCIS 



schism and rebellion ? At most, the Order could have 
been no more than the last echo of an age that was 
passing, picturesque, poetical, but powerless to inspire. 
It was the great theological schools, attached to the 
larger convents, that attracted such great masters as 
Bacon, Scotus, Hales, Marsh, Middleton and Ockham, 
only to name Englishmen. It was in illustrating 
the Franciscan epic for the larger churches that Giotto 
found his earliest inspiration ; it was from the larger 
Franciscan tradition, and especially from St Bonaven- 
ture, that Dante learned the secret of his approach to 
science. By its ministrations and its missions this 
active, apostolic Order changed the outlook of Society, 
and the century of its inspiration is the period of 
transition from the mediaeval to the modern world. 

The gestures of St Francis were too large and too 
significant to be confined to the narrow stage of the 
little Umbrian hermitages or even of the cities and 
villages where he preached. In an age that was arid 
with effete conventions, he sowed a life-seed and a new 
creative grace. In the mirror of himself as in the 
method of his teaching he showed forth the image of 
a human Saviour in the living hues of sentiment and 
sympathy. For this great work he has been called 
"The Fifth Evangelist," and the truth of his gospel 
for mankind was Life. 



162 



THE FIRST HUNDRED YEARS OF THE 
FRANCISCAN SCHOOL AT OXFORD 

BY A. G. LITTLE, M.A., F.B.A. 



THE FIRST HUNDRED YEARS OF THE 
FRANCISCAN SCHOOL AT OXFORD 

THE Dominicans and Franciscans were sometimes 
classed together in the latter part of the thirteenth 
century as " the two student Orders." 1 That learning 
should become one of the leading characteristics of his 
Order was certainly contrary to the intention and the 
ideals of St. Francis. He had a humble veneration for 
learning and for learned men in their proper place, 
but their proper place was not among the Friars Minor, 
who had chosen " the way of simplicity." " St. Francis 
once said " (to quote Thomas of Celano) " that a great 
scholar when he joined the Order ought in some sort 
to resign even his learning, in order that, having stripped 
himself of such a possession, he might offer himself 
naked to the arms of the Crucified." 2 " Tantum habet 
homo de scientia quantum operatur " is another phrase 
attributed to him by his companion, Brother Leo 3 
(" A man's knowledge is just what he does "). He 
foresaw also very clearly some of the changes which 

1 FT. Rogeri Bacon 0-pera quaedam bactenus inedita, ed. J. S. Brewer (R.S, 

I8 59)> PP- 39 8 > 4 26 > 4 2 7- 

2 II Cel. ii., c. 146, 194. 

3 Spfculum Perfections, ed. Sabatier, p. 13. 

165 



ST. FRANCIS 



the pursuit of knowledge would bring into the Order 
itself. 1 It would create an aristocracy of learning and 
introduce a division between the learned and the simple 
brethren. The possession of books was not only incon- 
sistent with the maintenance of absolute poverty, but 
it would involve further changes. It would tend to 
the establishment of permanent houses and limit the 
liberty and mobility of the friars. It is noteworthy 
that the first permanent house for the friars was built 
in the university city of Bologna, and St. Francis in 
vain protested against it. 2 

It is easy to see why he failed to stop the new develop- 
ment. Learned men were attracted by the ideal of 
poverty and self-sacrifice no less than the simple, and 
why should they not use all their gifts and powers in the 
service of others ? The determination of wise prelates 
such as Cardinal Ugolino to make full use of the 
Franciscan movement to evangelize the world encouraged 
the friars to study. And the example of the Friars 
Preachers must have tended to the same result. The 
clerkly element from the first predominated in the 
Franciscan Order in the countries north of the Alps, 
and nowhere did their message meet with more enthusi- 
astic response than among the masters and scholars of 
Paris and Oxford. 

Nine Franciscan friars landed at Dover on 10 

1 See esp. " Intentio Regulae," in Lemmens, Documenta Antiqua Fran- 
ciscana, I. pp. 83-99. 

2 Spec. Perf. cap. 6, II Cel. i., c. 28, 58. 

1 66 



THE FRANCISCAN SCHOOL AT OXFORD 

September 1224. About the end of October two of 
them both Englishmen arrived at Oxford and, after 
staying a week with the Friars Preachers, hired a house 
in St. Ebbe's. Here they were soon joined by William 
of Ashby, the third Englishman among the original 
nine friars. William, though still a novice, was made 
the first guardian of Oxford. He seems to have been 
a scholar of Paris, and was a man of attractive, gentle, 
unassuming, and rather morbid nature, without much 
initiative, but able to carry out any task imposed on 
him. The friars quickly won recruits among the 
University men 1 many honest bachelors and many 
nobles entering the Order in their first house, which 
soon proved too small. In the summer of 1225 they 
moved across the road to a house belonging to Richard 
the Miller, who made over his house to the community 
of the town for the use of the friars. 1 It was situated 
on the south of Freren Street (now Church Street), 2 in 
the triangle formed by Church Street on the north, St. 
Ebbe's Street on the east, and the city wall on the south. 
This house, though very confined, had to suffice for their 
needs for the next four years. Agnellus, the provincial 
minister, always refused to allow any house of friars 
to accept more ground than was necessary for their 
immediate requirements. 3 In 1229 ^ e permitted a 

1 Tractatus fr. Tbomae . . . de Eccleston De adventu Fratrum Minorum in 
Anglian, ed. A. G. Little, 1909 (henceforth referred to as Eccleston), pp. 3-8, 
11-13,27. 

2 Salter, Cartulary of the Hospital of St. John (Oxf. Hist. Soc.), II. p. 218. 

? 55. 

167 



ST. FRANCIS 



large increase. The house of William de Wileford with 
all its appurtenances in the parish of St. Ebbe was 
purchased by public subscription and handed over to 
the mayor and good men of Oxford to hold for the 
use of the Friars Minor for ever. The price was 
43 marks (a8/. I3-4). 1 This is 3 marks more than 
the price for which a few years later the Dominicans 
sold a portion of their original site in St. Edward's 
parish a more central part of the town than St. Ebbe's. 
This portion measured 14 x 8 perches and included 
the great school. 2 It is reasonable to suppose that the 
site of William de Wileford's house was rather larger 
than this, and in that case it must have occupied more 
than half of the triangle between Church Street, Freren 
Street, and the city wall. 

We may connect this large increase in the area with 
the decision to open a school in the friary. This was 
the year of the dispersal of the University of Paris : 
masters and scholars were seeking new homes : Henry III 
invited them to transfer themselves to England (14 or 
1 6 July 1229), and Oxford was crowded with immi- 
grants, among whom were a number of Friars Minor 
from the schools of Paris. 3 

The time was opportune, and there was at least 

1 Little, Grey Friars in Oxford, 295-6. For date see Salter, Cart, of Hosp. 
St. John, II. 34-5. Cf. ibid. I. 23-4, II. 202. 

2 Cartulary of St. Frideswide, ed. Wigram (Oxf. Hist. Soc.), I. 223. 

3 Salter, Mediaeval Archives of the University of Oxford (O.H.S.), I. 17. 
Pat. 13 Hen. III. m 6 (p. 257). Shirley, Letters Henry III (R.S.), I. 398-9. 
Eccleston, 37. 

1 68 



THE FRANCISCAN SCHOOL AT OXFORD 

one English Franciscan who seems to have been emin- 
ently qualified to act as master of the school. This was 
Haymo of Faversham, afterwards General Minister of 
the whole Order the only Englishman to hold that 
office. He had entered the Order at St. Denys (for 
the famous convent of the Cordeliers in Paris was not 
yet in existence) on Good Friday, 12 April 1224, with 
his assistant Nicholas of Sandwich and two other masters, 
and came to England soon after the arrival of Agnellus. 
His coming added greatly to the prestige of the friars 
in England : " both in sermons and disputations," 
says the chronicler Thomas of Eccleston, " and especially 
in securing the favour of prelates he assisted very much 
the simplicity of the brethren in those early days." 1 
The word " disputations " implies that he took part 
in university teaching, and there is other evidence of 
his close connexion with Oxford. 2 That he was a 
competent teacher is shown by the fact that he was 
later appointed lector at Tours, Bologna, and Padua. 3 
Why not at Oxford ? 

A possible and not improbable explanation is the 
Gospel injunction : " Neither be ye called masters " 
(Matt, xxiii. 10). The identification of the Rule and 
the Gospel was a principle among the primitive friars, 

1 Eccleston, 34-6. 

2 Pat. Roll, 1 6 Hen. III. m 7. 

3 Eccleston, 35. According to Grabmann, Theol. Quartalschrift, 1911, 
p. 544, Haymo of Faversham's quaestiones on the logical works of Aristotle are 
preserved in Bibl. Ambrosiana MS. C. 161 inf. But Callebaut (Arch. Franc. 
Hist.), XIV. 375, ascribes them to Simon of Faversham. 

169 



ST. FRANCIS 



who held that they were bound by their Rule to observe 
all the precepts of the Gospel. This was the tradition 
in which Agnellus had lived, and, in spite of the Bull 
Quo elongati (28 September 1230), the tradition cer- 
tainly persisted in some parts and may have prevented 
any Friar Minor from taking the degree of master for 
some years in the English province. At Oxford a 
school of theology recognized by the university could 
be ' ruled ' or conducted only by a master ; and at 
Oxford the Franciscan school was ruled for some 
eighteen years by a succession of secular masters. In 
this respect Oxford was unique among the English 
houses and probably in the whole Order. 

The decision to entrust the post to a secular in the 
first instance was made easy by the fact that a man of 
exceptional abilities and character and position was 
available namely, Robert Grosseteste. Eccleston is 
disappointingly brief on his appointment. " On the 
enlargement of the friary where the principal university 
flourished and where scholars were wont to congregate, 
brother Agnellus caused a school of fair dimensions to 
be built in the place of the brethren, and persuaded 
Master Robert Grosseteste of holy memory to lecture 
there to the brethren. Under him within a short time 
they made incalculable progress both in scholastic 
disputations and in the subtle moralities suitable for 
preaching." 1 

That Grosseteste should have accepted what must 

1 Eccleston, p. 60. 
170 



THE FRANCISCAN SCHOOL AT OXFORD 

have been a comparatively obscure post is a tribute alike 
to his humility and to his faith in the future of the 
Franciscan movement. He already had a long and 
distinguished career behind him. By 1214 he had 
become the foremost teacher at Oxford and was ap- 
pointed the first chancellor of the young university 
with the title of Maglster scholarum. He held many 
preferments in the Church, all of which, except one 
prebend at Lincoln, he resigned for conscience' sake 
while he was lecturer to the friars. 

He was lecturer to the friars from 1229 or 1230 
till his election to the see of Lincoln on 27 March 1 23 5. 1 
Learning he regarded as essential to the life and growth 
of the Order : " For he said sometimes that unless the 
friars fostered learning and devoted themselves to the 
study of the divine law, of a certainty the same fate 
would befall us which had befallen the other religious 
Orders whom we see, alas ! walking in the darkness of 
ignorance." 2 It is at present impossible to say which 
of his numerous writings belong to this period. There 
is some reason to believe that the De cessatwne legalium, 
which contains arguments for the conversion of the 
Jews, was written about I232, 3 and the collection of 
Dictaf consisting chiefly of lecture notes on moral 

1 Chron. de Lanercost (ed. J. Stevenson, 1839), p. 45. The author was a 
Franciscan, Richard of Durham ; see Eng. Hist. Rev. XXXI. 269-79. 

2 Eccleston, 114. 

3 F. S. Stevenson, Robert Grosseteste, 104. 

4 Some of these are printed in E. Brown's Fasciculus Rerun Expetendarum 
(1690), II. 274-96. 

171 



ST. FRANCIS 



subjects and containing what Eccleston calls "subtle 
moralities suitable for preaching," may perhaps be 
ascribed to this time. But we are able to recover the 
chief features of Grosseteste's teaching both from his 
own works and from the frequent allusions to it in 
Roger Bacon's writings. Bacon was not yet a friar and 
there is no positive evidence that he attended Grosse- 
teste's lectures. But his allusions are particularly inter- 
esting and important for our purpose, because he 
frequently classes together Grosseteste and two of his 
successors in the office of lecturer to the friars namely, 
Thomas the Welshman and Adam Marsh and estab- 
lishes the fact that a special tradition of learning was 
founded by Grosseteste and prevailed for several 
generations in the Franciscan school. 

The principal characteristics which distinguished 
Grosseteste's teaching may be summed up under three 
heads : 

(i) The study of the Bible. " Auctoritas irrefraga- 
bilis Scripturae " is a phrase which he uses in a letter 
(c. 1233) to Agnellus and the convent of Oxford. 1 In 
a letter written some years later to the Regent Masters 
in Theology at Oxford, he insists that the text of the 
Old and New Testaments must be the basis of theological 
teaching : " Now the time especially appropriate to 
laying foundation stones ... is the morning hour 
when you lecture ordinarie : therefore all your lectures 
especially at that time should be on the books of the 

1 Robert Grosseteste Epistolae, ed. Luard (R.S.). 
172 



THE FRANCISCAN SCHOOL AT OXFORD 

New Testament or the Old." 1 There can be no doubt 
that this was the practice which he followed himself, 
and we have the express statement of Roger Bacon that 
Grosseteste and Adam Marsh invariably used the text 
of the Scripture for the subject of their lectures in 
preference to the Sentences of Peter Lombard, which 
later became the favourite text-book in the schools of 
theology. 2 

(2) The study of languages. In his commentaries 
on the works of the Pseudo-Dionysius, especially in the 
De divinis nominibus, Grosseteste gives a kind of gram- 
matical introduction to the Greek language. It is true 
that all Grosseteste's translations from the Greek were 
made after he became bishop ; and Bacon says : " He 
did not know languages well enough to translate except 
towards the end of his life." 3 But a letter to the Abbot 
and Convent of Peterborough, written in the early 
years of his episcopate, gives us a glimpse of him reading 
and translating Greek as a relaxation during a few 
days' respite from his official labours 4 ; and it is a fair 
inference that his mind was occupied by the subject 
while he was lecturing to the friars. This inference is 
confirmed by Bacon's testimony to the work of Grosse- 
teste and his successors in the Franciscan school : " We 
have seen some of the earlier generation who laboured 
much at languages, such as the lord Robert the above- 

1 Robert Grosseteste Epistolae, 246-7. 

8 Fr. Rog. Bacon Opera, ed. Brewer, 328-9 (a faulty text). 

3 Ibid. Opus Tertium, p. 91. 

* R. Grosseteste E-pist. 173. 

173 



ST. FRANCIS 



mentioned translator and bishop, and Thomas the 
venerable bishop of St. David's now deceased, and Friar 
Adam Marsh." 1 

(3) Mathematics and Physical Science. Here again 
the repeated conjunction of Adam Marsh's name with 
that of Grosseteste in Roger Bacon's writings may be 
taken as evidence that Grosseteste expounded his views 
on these subjects to the friars. " There have been 
found," says Bacon, " some famous men, such as Robert, 
Bishop of Lincoln, and friar Adam Marsh and some 
others, who have known how by the power of mathe- 
matics to infold the causes of all things and to give a 
sufficient explanation of human and divine pheno- 
mena ; and the assurance of this fact is to be found in 
the writings of these great men, as, for instance, in their 
works on the impression [of the elements], on the 
rainbow and the comets, on the sphere, and on other 
questions appertaining both to theology and to natural 
philosophy." 2 

Natural philosophy, Grosseteste taught, is based on 
mathematics. " Omnes enim causae effectuum natur- 
alium habent dari per lineas, angulos et figuras. Aliter 
enim impossible est sciri * propter quid ' in illis." 3 
He used optics as best adapted to illustrate the 
prevalence of mathematical law ; but the nature of 

1 Op. Maf. (ed. Bridges), III. 88. Cf. Op. lert. (ed. Brewer), 88. 

2 Opus Majus (Bridges), I. 108. Cf. Op. Tert. (Brewer), 82 ; Roger Bacon 
Comment. Essays, 164, note 2 (De communibus mathematice). 

3 Die pbil. Werke Grossetestes (Baur), 60. 



THE FRANCISCAN SCHOOL AT OXFORD 

light had a still wider and deeper interest for him. 
Light is a force or form of energy which acts 
by an instantaneous self-expression in all directions 
from a centre ; it is the simplest and most subtile 
body, the most akin to spirit the type and symbol 
of Creative Mind. 

Grosseteste was succeeded by three more secular 
masters in turn. 1 The first was Peter, probably Peter 
of Ramsey, who became Bishop of Aberdeen in 1-247. 
He remains only a name. The second, Roger of 
Wesham or Weasenham, became Dean of Lincoln 
about 1240 and Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield 
1 245-5 6. 2 Of hi 8 scholastic work nothing is known. 
These two probably held the office of lector only for 
a short time between 1235 and 1240. The third 
was Thomas the Welshman. He went to Paris about 
1236 to study theology with the hope of obtaining the 
doctor's degree, but sacrificed this ambition at Grosse- 
teste's request and returned to England in 1238 as 
Archdeacon of Lincoln. 3 He presumably became D.D. 
of Oxford and lectured to the friars from 1240 till his 
election to the see of St. David in 1 247. Roger Bacon 
alludes several times to his knowledge of languages, but 
nowhere expressly states that he resembled Grosseteste 

1 Eccleston, 61-2. 

2 For full account of his resignation, see William Salt Arckcsol. Soc. VI. (1885), 
pt. ii, pp. 107 et seq. 

3 Rob. Grosseteste Epistolae, pp. 147-51. Cf. Rotuli Rob. Grosseteste (Cant, 
and York. Soc.), pp. 22, 31, 103, 165, 252, 306, 343, 392, 395. Mat. Paris, 
Cbron. Maj. IV. 647, V. 

175 



ST. FRANCIS 



and Adam Marsh in knowledge of mathematics and 
natural philosophy. 1 

All these four secular masters who ruled the Fran- 
ciscan school for the first eighteen years of its existence 
became bishops, and, in Eccleston's words, " being 
always favourable to the friars in all things, they pro- 
moted their deeds and fame very greatly in diverse 
places. The fame of the friars of England and their 
progress in learning became so well known even in other 
provinces " that many of them were called to lecture 
in foreign houses such as Lyons, Parma, Genoa, 
Rome. 

In England itself pupils of Grosseteste and his 
immediate successors were sent as lecturers to the 
various convents. London, Canterbury, Hereford, 
Leicester, Bristol, Gloucester, Norwich, Northampton, 
are specially mentioned, besides Oxford and Cambridge. 
Eccleston sums up the progress made in the following 
statement : " The gift of wisdom so overflowed in the 
English province that before the deposition of Friar 
William of Nottingham [1254] there were in England 
thirty lecturers who solemnly disputed, and three or 
four who lectured without disputing. For Friar William 
had assigned in the universities for every house students 
who should succeed the lecturers on their death or 
removal." 2 

1 Fr. Rog. Bacon Of era (ed. Brewer), 88 (for sanctum read sancti), 428 ; 
Opus Majlis (ed. Bridges), III. 88. 

2 Eccleston, p. 63. 

176 



Plate VII. 



-> 




By the courtesy oj Sir Joseph Duveen. 

St. Francis before the Pope. 
By Sassetta (1444). 



ST. FRANCIS 



and Adam Marsh in knowledge of mathematics and 
natural philosophy. 1 

All these four secular masters who ruled the Fran- 
ciscan school for the first eighteen years of its existence 
became bishops, and, in Eccleston's words, " being 
always favourable to the friars in all things, they pro- 
moted their deeds and fame very greatly in diverse 
places. The fame of the friars of England and their 
progress in learning became so well known even in other 
provinces " that many of them were called to lecture 
in foreign houses such as Lyons, Parma, Genoa, 
Rome. 

In England itself pupils of Grosseteste and his 
immediate successors were sent as lecturers to the 
various convents. London, Canterbury, Hereford, 
Leicester, Bristol, Gloucester, Norwich, Northampton, 
are specially mentioned, besides Oxford and Cambridge. 
Eccleston sums up the progress made in the following 
statement : " The gift of wisdom so overflowed in the 
English province that before the deposition of Friar 
William of Nottingham [1254] there were in England 
thirty lecturers who solemnly disputed, and three or 
four who lectured without disputing. For Friar William 
had assigned in the universities for every house students 
who should succeed the lecturers on their death or 
removal." 2 

1 FT. Rog. Bacon Opera (ed. Brewer), 88 (for sanctum read sanctf), 428 ; 
Opus Majus (ed. Bridges), III. 88. 

2 Eccleston, p. 63. 

1/6 



Plate VII. 




Uy the courtesy oj Sir Joseph Dureen. 



St. Francis before the Pope. 
Uy Sassetta (1444). 



THE FRANCISCAN SCHOOL AT OXFORD 

We thus see that the universities Oxford and to 
a lesser degree Cambridge became primarily, under 
the influence of William of Nottingham, the fourth 
provincial minister (1240-54), training colleges for 
teachers throughout . the province. The ideal and it 
was already largely realized was that each house 
should have a lecturer, and that each house should 
have a student being prepared at one of the universities 
to succeed to the lectureship when it became vacant. 
Some light is thrown on the working of the system 
by a passage in a letter of Adam Marsh to William of 
Nottingham about 1251 1 : " Friar Hugh of Lewknor 
[co. Oxford], a brother of good character and laudable 
promise, has asked me to pray you that you will kindly 
command the friars, to whom he is assigned as lecturer, 
that they will set about making adequate provision for 
him, or that they do not complain at his getting released 
from his engagement (assignations) , if that be your good 
pleasure." The convent therefore had to provide for 
itsjrafer assignatus during his training. 

These assignation?* were made by the provincial 
minister in consultation with the master of the Franciscan 
school in the university, 2 and probably the convent 
concerned had a 'say in the matter. 3 They were 
evidently made not at the beginning but fairly late in 
a student's academic career. Thus Adam Marsh urges 
that Friar Thomas of York, who had already for some 

1 Monuments. Franciscana, ed. Brewer (R.S.), I. 357. 

2 Man. Franc. I. 357. s Cf. ibid. 319. 
N 177 



ST. FRANCIS 



years shown himself a promising student, should not be 
set to teaching yet, but should be assigned as lector to 
the Oxford convent : i.e. he should continue his 
studies with a view to becoming lector at Oxford. 1 

When a student friar first came to Oxford, he did 
not come as ^jrater asslgnatus^ but was said to " stand 
for " such and such a convent " stare pro (or de) 
conventu." He might afterwards, if he proved suitable, 
be " assigned " to some convent probably not tha 
from which he originally came. But I have been able 
to find out very little about the system. The constitu- 
tions and decrees of the English province have all been 
lost, and the general constitutions only apply to students 
sent from other provinces. Had every convent the 
right or duty to send a student to a university ? Were 
the students chosen by the convent or the custodial 
chapter or the provincial chapter or the provincial 
minister ? How were they provided for at the univer- 
sity ? Was it necessary or customary for a student, 
before coming to the university, to study in a special 
school of philosophy or in the special school of theology 
in his custody ? For later, at any rate, if not in 1250, 
there was a special school of theology in each of the 
seven custodies into which the English province was 
divided. 2 

As I hope some of my hearers or readers are or will 
be engaged on Franciscan researches, I will give at 

1 Man. Franc. I. 357. 

a Statutes of .Benedict XII, A.D. 1336; Bullarium Franciscanum, VI. 30. 

I 7 8 



THE FRANCISCAN SCHOOL AT OXFORD 

some length a piece of evidence as an example of the 
kind of thing one should look out for. ' 

A manuscript volume in Salisbury Cathedral Library 
(No. 142) containing Isidore's Etymologies has on the 
first flyleaf this inscription in a thirteenth-century hand : 
" Istum librum comodauit dominus et magister. R. 
Cancellarius Sar' Fratri Henrico de Wudeston' qui pro 
conuentu Sar' stat Oxon'. Quern qui a dominio dicti 
domini alienauerit anathema sit." This is crossed 
through and another inscription, also of the thirteenth 
century, substituted : " Iste liber est Ecclesie beate 
Marie Sar'. Quern qui alienauerit vel abstulerit ana- 
thema sit." Friar Henry returned the book when he 
had done with it. The initial " R " stands for Ralph 
of Hegham, who was Chancellor of Oxford University 
in I24I-2, 1 and appears as Chancellor of Salisbury at 
various dates 'between 1243 and 1 270.2 Henry of 
Woodstone became a person of some note : thus in 
1270 he led an agitation against the Jews holding real 
property, which resulted in legislation. 3 What concerns 
us here is a reference to him at Oxford in a collection of 
exemplar 

1 Snappe's Formulary) etc., ,ed. Salter (O.H.S.), 320. 

2 Le Neve, Fasti, II. 649 ; W. H. Jones, Fasti Eccl. Sarisb. (1879), 
p. 336. Cf. E. G. Millar, "Les Manuscrits a peintures des Bibliotheques 
de Londres," in Bulletin de la Societe Fran$aise de Re-productions de Manuscrits 
a Peintures, 1914-20, p. 62. 

3 Brit. Soc. Franc. Studies, Collectanea, II. 150-6. 

4 Brit. Mus. MS. Sloane, 2478, fol. 15 b. The story comes in the Speculum 
Laicorum, ed. Welter, pp. 89-90, with the erroneous date 1356, and elsewhere. 
See B.S.F.S. Collect. Franc. II. 150. 

179 



ST. FRANCIS 



On the day of St. James [25 July], 1256, a priest 
named Ralph being in mortal sin was celebrating mass 
for the dead in the church of St. Mary Magdalene in 
the suburb of Oxford. As he elevated the consecrated 
host and raised his eyes, he saw a man descending head 
downwards from a height, who with an angry look 
seized the body of Christ with one hand and hit the 
celebrant a severe blow on the jaw with the other. 
Ralph fainted, and, on coming to himself, he bade his 
server run to a priest, who was lying sick in a neighbour- 
ing house, tell him his sin, and bring back his absolution. 
The answer of the sick priest was that he should say the 
salutation of the Blessed Virgin till he could go to the 
bishop's penitentiary. He then finished the mass, and 
accepted. the penance imposed by the latter, but always 
retained signs of his mishap. " The bishop's peniten- 
tiary at that time was Friar Henry of the Order of 
Friars Minor, called de Wodeston, and the said priest 
(Ralph) was his scholar. He asked Friar Henry to 
make this miracle known to all faithful Christians, out 
of reverence to the body of Christ, without specifying 
the sin." 

Henry of Wodstone, a student from the convent of 
Salisbury, came to Oxford with books provided by 
friends or benefactors: he was at Oxford in 1256, 
and was at that time a priest, authorized by the Bishop 
of Lincoln to hear confessions : he was engaged in 
teaching, and among his pupils there was at least one 

secular priest. 

1 80 



THE FRANCISCAN SCHOOL AT OXFORD 

Somewhat similar evidence exists for Cambridge ; 
and I may remark that the history of the Grey Friars 
in Cambridge still remains to be written. 

Students sent from other provinces to Oxford 
formed another class. Every province had the right 
to send two students to Paris without any provision 
except books. There was no such rule as to Oxford 
till I457, 1 but many provinces from time to time acquired 
the right. That there were many foreign students at 
Oxford at the end of the thirteenth century is clear 
from an injunction issued by the General Chapter of 
Paris in 1292 to the English minister. In order that 
the burden on the convent of Oxford may be somewhat 
lightened during the long vacation, the General Chapter 
ordains that foreign students in England should (during 
the long vacation) be divided equally among the 
convents of Oxford, London, and Cambridge, according 
to the decision of the provincial minister. 2 

There seem to be no means of knowing how many 
foreign friars there were at Oxford at any time or what 
proportion they bore to the native friars. The total 
number of friars in Oxford, of all the four Orders, is 
known at two dates in the fourteenth century. A 
Wardrobe Account of i o Edward II (now in the posses- 
sion of the Society of Antiquaries of London) yields the 

1 Sbaralea, Supp. ad Scriptores Ord. Min., 717. 

2 Archiv /. Litt. u. Kirchengeschichte d. Mittelalters, VI. 63. On the 
maintenance of foreign friars at Cambridge later (1395) see Gal. Pap. L., 
IV. 516-7 ; Bull. Franc. VII. p. 55. 

181 



ST. FRANCIS 



following figures for 29 January 1317: Friars Preachers 
90, Friars Minor 84, Carmelites 45, Austin Friars 43. 
The first Bursar's Roll at New College yields the follow- 
ing figures in 1377 : Friars Preachers 70, Friars 
Minor 103, Carmelites 57, Austin Friars 49. 

The friars' schools also supplied lecturers to bodies 
outside their own Order. Thus for some forty years 
(1275-1314) a succession of Franciscan lecturers taught 
theology to the monks of the cathedral church of 
Canterbury. 1 The Bishop of Worcester in 1285 asked 
that a Franciscan lecturer should be sent to the monks 
of his cathedral church. 2 There is other evidence of 
a similar kind, and no doubt more to be collected. 
A letter of Pope Gregory XI dated Rome 1 3 77 throws 
a curious light on the subject. 3 The Friars Minor 
studying and lecturing on theology at Cambridge had 
complained to the Pope that they were unfairly treated 
in the matter of appointments to lectureships as com- 
pared with their brethren at Oxford. The Pope writes 
to the provincial minister and chapter of the English 
province, " to whom by ancient and hitherto peaceably 
observed custom the right of election belongs," ordering 
them to treat the friars of both universities equally, 
" that they may be found competent and properly 
equipped, and may be appointed to lecture in cathedral 
churches and to take the degree of master in the 



1 Cotton, Grey Friars of Canterbury (B.S.F.S.), 34-6. 

2 Wore. Epis. Reg. Godf. Giffard (ed. Bund), p. 263. 

3 Bull, Franc. VI. 584. 

182 



THE FRANCISCAN SCHOOL AT OXFORD 

faculty of theology." It would appear that it was 
customary for friars who studied at the universities, and 
especially at Oxford, to "be appointed lecturers on 
theology in cathedral schools. 

Friars who were appointed to lecture on theology 
in houses of their Order not situated in university towns 
required, according to the declarations of Alexander IV 
in 1257 and Clement IV in I265, 1 no licence from any 
authority outside the Order. Those appointed to 
lecture "in places where a university nourished" had 
also to conform to the laws and customs of the university. 
At Oxford, therefore, a friar, before he could teach, 
had to be approved by the authorities both of his Order 
and of the university. 

At Paris the choice of friars to be presented for the 
degree of master rested with the General Minister, 
subject to the rule that out of every three thus presented 
one must belong to the province of France and two to 
other provinces. 2 No such rule prevailed at Oxford. 
Here the choice rested with the provincial minister and 
probably the provincial chapter. The General Minister 3 
and the General Chapter had nothing to do with the 
appointments before 1336. In 1336 Benedict XII 
issued constitutions for the government of the Franciscan 
Order, and enacted " that of the friars who shall be 

1 Bull Franc. II. 208, III. 19. 

2 Arch. f. L. . K. Gescb. d. Mittelalters, VI. 107. 

3 There is one ezception. Ralph of Colebruge, who took the habit while 
he was regent master at Paris, was transferred to Oxford by John of Parma, 
c. 124.9 ; but the circumstances were peculiar. 



ST. FRANCIS 



appointed to read the Sentences at Oxford two shall be 
taken for two years from the province of England to 
be elected by the English Provincial Chapter ; for the 
third year the third shall be taken from other parts of 
the Order to be elected by the General Chapter in turn 
from the cismontane and the ultramontane parts " x ; 
and the same was enacted for Cambridge. Lecturing 
on the Sentences was preparatory to the master's degree, 
and the intention was that a fixed proportion of foreign 
friars should proceed to the degree of master in the 
English universities. There is evidence that the decree 
was carried out at Cambridge, .very little that it was 
carried out at Oxford. 2 On the whole, Oxford seems 
to have resisted the innovation successfully and to have 
remained a studtum generate under provincial adminis- 
tration. 



1 Bull. Franc. VI. 30. 

2 The list of masters of the Friars Minor at Cambridge, begun by Eccleston 
and continued till about 1360, contains several foreigners : 59 Johannes de 
Casale de provincia Januae, 64 Jacobus de Pennis postea episcopus [probably 
Jacobus de Tolomaeis, Bishop of Narni between 1348 and 1374], 66 Petrus de 
Arragonia, 70 Rogerus de Cicilia. The list of Oxford masters ends earlier 
probably c. 1345 (Thomas Oterburn, the last but two, was already S.T.P. 
when he was licensed to hear confessions in the archdeaconry of Durham in 
1343 : Richard d> Aungerville of Bury, Fragments of his Register, etc., ed. Kitchen, 
Surtees Soc., 1910, p. 28). Among the Franciscan regent masters in the latter half 
of the fourteenth century only one foreigner, William de Prato (before 1363), 
has been discovered. It may be noted that Hupert de Kalvesnaken, who was 
appointed before 1376 by the General Chapter to read the Sentences at Oxford 
to obtain the degree of master, failed to get his degree : Bull. Franc. VI. 578. 
The obstacle may of course have come from the university, not the friars : 
cf. Bull. Franc. VI. 388, 544. 

184 



THE FRANCISCAN SCHOOL AT OXFORD 

I will conclude this paper with a few remarks on 
some of the lectors to the Friars at Oxford. Eccleston 
and his continuators give a list of 67 lectors covering 
about a century. Each of these held the office of lector 
or master of the Franciscan school during his period 
of * necessary regency ' in the university. The univer- 
sity recognized only one regent at a time for each of 
the Mendicant Orders. Necessary regency normally 
lasted two years from the date of the conferment of 
the degree of master or doctor in theology. The rule 
was not very strictly enforced, and the period seems to 
have varied in practice from three years to a year and 
a half or less. 

The first Franciscan to hold the office was Adam 
Marsh (c. 1247-9). As ^is career nas formed the 
subject of many essays, 1 I will say nothing more about 
him here except that he was an ideal tutor : he had the 
faculty of seeing the bent of each pupil's mind and 
encouraging him to follow it. Before 1 245 he procured 
a copy of the Metaphysics for Friar Thomas of York ; 
a little later he obtained a Bible for Friar Thomas of 
Docking. Thomas of York spent the rest of his life 
working at metaphysics ; Thomas of Docking spent 
the rest of his life commenting on the Bible. It is of 
these two I wish to speak. 

Thomas of York was the fourth lector, entering 
on his office in the spring of 1253. The important 

1 The most recent is that by Father Cuthbert in The Romanticism of 
St. Francis (1924), pp. 190-235. 

I8 5 



ST. FRANCIS 



constitutional questions which arose and were for the 
time settled in connexion with his presentation for the 
degree of D.D. have been fully explained elsewhere, 
and I will draw attention here only to his scholastic 
work, which is less known. He wrote a great treatise 
on metaphysics which is preserved in three manuscripts 
one in the Biblioteca Nazionale at Florence (Conv. 
Soppr. 437 A. 7), two in the Vatican (Lat. 4301 and 
6771) not yet edited. It was left unfinished at the 
author's death, but even so would fill three or four 
volumes. That it is worth printing may be seen 
from Monsignor Grabmann's description of it as 
being the only great presentation of the system of 
metaphysics produced in the best period of Scholasticism. 1 
It is not a commentary on Aristotle, but an independent 
treatment of the subject. The contents are as follows : 
After an enthusiastic praise of wisdom or philosophy 
and its utilities, the author treats in Book I of the 
existence and nature of God ; in Book II of the origin 
of Being in general ; in Book III of Being in itself ; 
in Book IV of the divisions of Being substance and 
accidence ; in Book V of unity and multiplicity, truth 
and falsehood ; in Book VI of special metaphysic " de 
his que subsint enti," ending in the middle of a treatise 
on psychology. Besides its intrinsic value, the work is 

1 " Die Metaphysik des Thomas von York," von Dr. Martin Grabmann, in 
Festgabe z. 60 Geburtstag C. Baeumker (1913), pp. 181-94. An edition was 
in preparation by Father P. Minges : his death (1926) may delay publication 
indefinitely. 

186 



THE 'FRANCISCAN SCHOOL AT OXFORD 

important for its quotations from early translations of 
Aristotle and Arabic and Jewish philosophers, which 
are said often to furnish better readings than are hitherto 
available. 

The only other extant work certainly by Thomas 
of York is a sermon on the Passion in Trinity College, 
Cambridge (No. 373) ; it is purely theological without 
a trace of philosophical learning. 

Thomas of York was succeeded by another philo- 
sopher of a more popular and less solid type Richard 
Rufus of Cornwall ; and then there seems to have been 
a reaction against philosophy in the Franciscan school. 
The next two lectors were not philosophers, but theo- 
logians. 

John of Wales, 1 though much interested in the lives 
of philosophers, was, as he admitted, quite incapable 
of understanding their thoughts ; and Thomas of 
Docking, though well able to handle philosophical 
problems when they arose, devoted himself to expound- 
ing the Bible. 

He was regent master and lector to the friars about 
1262 and was still at Oxford in i26q. 2 This was the 
time when Roger Bacon was pouring out his soul in 
his three great works to the Pope ; Docking quotes 
him at least once without mentioning his name ; and 
there is a passage in the Opus Majus which implies, I 

1 For a study of him and his works, see my Studies in English Franciscan 
Hist., 174-92. 

2 Grey Friars in Oxford, App. C. 

I8 7 



ST. FRANCIS 



think, that Bacon had attended his lectures or knew his 
work, and regarded him as a model commentator. 
Docking's fault was prolixity. His commentaries on 
the Epistles of St. Paul from Galatians to Hebrews 
(i.e. excluding Romans and Corinthians) are nearly 
complete, and would if quite complete have filled 1,000 
pages in a manuscript which measures nearly 1 8 inches 
by 12. The commentary on Isaiah is on a similar 
scale ; that on Deuteronomy rather shorter. Others 
have been lost or exist only in fragments. His prolixity 
is due to a good motive his determination to make his 
meaning plain to the dullest of his auditors. He is 
very learned. He discusses the various readings in the 
different versions, though he probably did not have 
any first-hand knowledge of either Greek or Hebrew. 
On the whole he is true to his principle that the historical 
meaning of Scripture is the solid foundation of the other 
meanings. He often quotes the Latin poets, and makes 
much use of mnemonic verses. Besides the Fathers of 
the Church and the recognized commentaries, he makes 
much use (among other writers) of the Jewish philo- 
sopher Maimonides. His favourite doctrine, perhaps, is 
that God is a spirit " supersimplicissimus spirituum " 
his favourite bugbear is idolatry. In one passage he 
enumerates seventeen main forms of idolatry. Under 
this heading he includes many things which we should 
call superstitions. Thus some people think that they 
will have good or bad luck according to which leg they 
put out of bed first ; and they give instances to prove 

188 



THE FRANCISCAN SCHOOL AT OXFORD 

that this really does happen. There is, says Docking, 
a perfectly natural explanation : people who believe 
rubbish of this sort are happy if they have put out the 
right leg first, and go about their business with a fine 
self-confidence ; if they have put out the wrong leg 
first, they are nervous and depressed and invite mis- 
fortune. Docking brings the common things of life to 
bear on his theological teaching. Commenting in one 
place on the text, " Suffer little children to come unto 
Me . . . for of such is the kingdom of heaven," he 
advises his students to study the ways of little children, 
and gives a description of a little boy at play which 
reads as though it must be based on recollections of his 
own early childhood in his Norfolk home. 1 

The three most famous names among the Oxford 
Franciscans do not appear in Eccleston's list Roger 
Bacon, Duns Scotus, William of Ockam. The reason 
is that none of them was D.D. of Oxford. Roger 
Bacon probably was never Doctor of Theology, but all 
the most fruitful part of his philosophy he learnt at 
Oxford. Duns Scotus became D.D. of Paris, but his 
longest and perhaps most important work, the earlier 
commentary on the Sentences, was the result of lectures 
delivered at Oxford between 1300 and I302. 2 Ockam 
lectured on the Sentences as B.D. at Oxford c. 1320, 
and had fulfilled all the conditions required for the 

1 References and a more detailed study of Docking will be given in an article 
on Thomas Docking in a volume of essays presented to Dr. R. L. Poole. 

2 On the life of Duns Scotus, see articles by A. Callebaut in Arc h. Franc. 
Hist. X., XIII., XVII., and by F. Pelster in Franz. Studien, X. 1-32. 

189 



ST. FRANCIS 



D.D. degree (as the title Inceptor applied to him shows), 
when his academic career was cut short by a summons 
to the papal court to answer charges of heresy preferred 
against him owing to his Oxford lectures. 1 These 
charges had nothing to do with his political anti- 
papal teaching (that was a later development), but with 
purely theological and philosophical doctrines. In 
spite of ecclesiastical censures, the system of philosophy 
known as Nominalism or often as Ockamism, enunciated 
by a young Bachelor of Theology in the Franciscan 
convent at Oxford, spread to all universities and domi- 
nated European thought for the next two centuries. 2 

1 Pelzer, " Les 51 articles de G. Occam censures a Avignon 1326," in Revue 
d'hist. ecclesiastique, XVIII. (1922). On Ockam's early life, see J. Hofer's 
article in Arch. Franc. Hist. VI. 209-33. 

2 Cardinal Ehrle treats learnedly of the " Ausbreitung und teilweise Vor- 
herrschaft des Nominalismus im 14 u. 15 Jht." in Der Sentenzenkommentar 
Peters von Candia, 192 5. 



190 



FRANCISCAN THOUGHT AND MODERN 

PHILOSOPHY 

BY CAMILLO PELLIZZI, DR. JUR. 



FRANCISCAN THOUGHT AND MODERN 

PHILOSOPHY 

MANY of the modern prejudices against the so- 
called darkness of the Middle Ages are now happily 
disappearing : among others, the opinion that 
Scholasticism was a line of philosophy entirely irre- 
levant to the problems of modern thought. The 
Cartesians, and many other rationalistic philosophers 
who had learned the foundations of their doctrines 
from the Cartesian School, considered their science 
as essentially different from the science of the Middle 
Ages. 

This prejudice has lingered on until quite recent 
times. Renan, for instance, at the beginning of his 
otherwise interesting study of Averroes, boldly asserts 
the irrelevance of his subject to the problems of modern 
philosophy. Still, to more recent and more painstaking 
students, the disregard of Rationalists for Scholasticism 
appears similar to the disregard, or even contempt, 
with which certain medieval Doctors spoke either of 
Plato, of Aristotle, or of both. Those Doctors pre- 
tended to object to Plato or Aristotle, but unconsciously 
they worked upon the foundations they had laid ; in 
the same way modern Rationalists object to St. Thomas, 
P 193 



ST. FRANCIS 



or at least neglect him, while their doctrines are none 
the less largely Thomistic. 

Indeed, serious thought cannot trifle away its own 
past, even when it criticizes it most severely. Modern 
and western philosophy, in particular, is connected 
with the medieval science of the Schools by similarities 
deep and essential. There is, first of all, our vocabulary. 
In science, the importance and " seriousness " of a 
word is always proportional to the amount of work that 
has already been done about it. Those who use an 
old philosophical word without any consideration for 
the meaning or meanings which the word took in the 
past, are bound to use it loosely, or even wrongly. A 
doctrine claiming to be entirely new may use old 
words irrespective of their own traditions ; but such 
doctrines are most probably superficial. And, real 
philosophy being always contemporary, the safest way 
to understand and to appreciate our modern writers 
is still to search the origins of their doctrines among 
the writers of the past. This is even more important 
when the same words are used with consciously different 
meanings. " Category" for instance, is a word that 
takes in Kant a meaning really different from that 
which it has in Aristotle ; while " value " does not 
mean at all the same for Herbart as for St. Augustine. 
Now, a student in Kantism or Herbartianism will always 
understand his own subject much better if he has a 
clear idea of those differences. 

Scholasticism, in particular, has left us a rich vocabu- 

194 



FRANCISCAN THOUGHT 



lary which is by no means obsolete, and a large number 
of the scholastic words are still better used with their 
old meanings : they have traditions behind them which 
cannot be disregarded. A " sense datum," a " world 
moment," a " psychic complex," are expressions which 
may be applied to vague or various ideas, or to nothing 
but mental confusion. One could not say the same, for 
instance, of " form and substance," " actum and potentia" 
" universal and particular," " mtellectus possibilis " and 
" Intellectus agens" and so on. He who uses these 
latter words must either compel his mind to the dis- 
cipline of their traditional meaning, or fail to be com- 
prehensible at all. 

Nor is this link of diction a merely formal one 
between present and past philosophy. Old and new 
problems are indissolubly interconnected, and from the 
early Greek to us, western thought proceeds on a line 
that has no complete discontinuities. Countries like 
France, England, Germany and Italy, where medieval 
philosophy reached greater heights and had a deeper 
and more lasting effect on general culture, are in fact 
those that have made the most important contribution 
to the development of our contemporary mentality. 

Again, Scholasticism itself was thoroughly indebted, 
for its own foundations, to the Greek masters and to 
the Neo-platonic schools of later times. The actual 
links between Greeks and the Schoolmen were the 
Fathers of the Church. It is they who took the newly 
born intuition of Christianity and made of it a many- 

'95 



ST. FRANCIS 



sided doctrine not incoherent with the previous tradi- 
tions of culture. The doctors of the Schools will take 
from them their main inspiration and develop it in a 
more critical and technical manner. 

So, taken as a whole, Scholasticism is but one moment 
in the eternal development of Christian conscious- 
ness ; such a moment is, somehow, eternal too, as it 
embodies a form of mind which every man will have 
to pass through before he reaches a higher stage. For 
instance, the Scholastic axiom that omne quod recipitur 
est in recipiente secundum.naturam recipientis, non secun- 
dum naturam recepti, if timely considered, might have 
saved our modern positivists and materialists several 
fundamental errors. The same, and others, might also 
discover with a good deal of profit, that to the Scholastic 
mind the existence and the reality of matter is an 
assumption far more dogmatic than the existence and 
reality of God. 

The assertion that Scholastics represent no more 
than the childhood of modern speculation is, we think, 
not entirely acceptable. Indeed, the Barbaric invasions 
had lowered the standards of culture in the basin of 
the Mediterranean and in western Europe as a whole ; 
but classic culture was already decadent. Heresies 
and schisms, which among Christians had fostered 
speculation up to the fourth century, became after 
the invasions more superficial and had thenceforward 
less bearing on philosophy. The great Councils, from 
Nicaea to Calcedon, and the works of the Fathers, 

196 



FRANCISCAN THOUGHT 



had settled the foundations of Christian faith, ethics 
and thought, for centuries to come. The Church was 
busy with the practical work of organizing its own 
growing body and of protecting it against external 
menaces. Christianity was tired of heresies ; the opinion 
that faith was much more a matter of direct inspiration 
and pious deeds than of doctrines and knowledge had 
spread to such an extent that, for some centuries, 
clerics used to read only a few books in which mystic 
inspiration was predominant, like the works of the 
Pseudo-Dionysus and a few of the works of St. Augustine. 

The Church was the only organized body which 
was left to stand for what remained of western traditions 
of culture and civilization, and it had to fight a long 
and deadly battle against the ever irrepressible indi- 
vidualism of the barbaric races. But, to some extent, 
the Church won its battle, and from the coronation of 
Charlemagne to the days of the Renaissance, there 
happened to be a unity in western Europe, if not so 
much of politics, at least of matters concerning religion 
and culture. 

Scholasticism was the philosophy of that time of 
unity. It was dogmatic in so far as it was based upon 
and implied this unity ; but it maintained this tendency 
even when it happened to be unorthodox, a secret that 
has since been lost. While the philosophy of the 
Fathers was a grand effort of creative thought thought 
not only original, but also conscious of its own genuine 
creativeness the philosophy of the Schools took for 

197 



ST. FRANCIS 



granted some results of those former efforts and worked 
upon them with untiring patience and, sometimes, 
incomparable cleverness, to solve minor difficulties 
and arrange the whole of science into one harmonious 
body. Roughly speaking, the Fathers are more con- 
cerned with metaphysics, the schools with logic and 
epistemology. 

The Christian faith with the Fathers was not so 
much a received dogma, as a fresh source of spiritual 
life which they felt within themselves ; as witness 
the warning of St. Augustine : " Noli joras Ire ; in 
teipsum redi. In interior e homine habitat veritas." It 
is the first definite assertion of humanism in a meta- 
physic sense : the source of truth is man. He finds 
the root of all that is valuable and true in that intimate 
share of divinity that he has in himself. Whenever he 
doubts Truth and Goodness, he is also doubting himself ; 
whatever he does against them, he does against himself. 

According to Gregory of Nyssa and, to some 
extent, Augustine there is a creativeness in the spirit 
of man, that is not essentially different from the creative- 
ness of God. Through piety and virtue, man begins 
to bridge the gap between God's and his own creative- 
ness ; if Grace helps him from above, he may reach 
that stage of perfect internal illumination^ which is 
essentially ineffable, but may be vaguely described as 
the most immediate experience of God within ourselves. 
Even more, the soul has a formative power of its own. 
It builds its own body and, to some extent, its own 

198 



FRANCISCAN THOUGHT 



world. Everyone has, therefore, the body and the 
surroundings which he deserves, and in his life and 
experiences he will always find, so to say, as much of 
God as he has put in them. This also explains, in an 
allegoric manner, the dogmas of reincarnation and of 
the final judgment. 

The elements of Christian faith were in themselves 
such as to encourage the development of this doctrine 
of human creativeness. God had become man to 
reconsecrate the divinity of man ; for this the Son of 
Man had bequeathed the Holy Spirit, to inspire the 
life of the union of redeemed mankind, the Church ; 
and all this was intended, finally, for the reconstruction 
of humanity, purified and, in its measure, divine, 
through the resurrection of the body and the final 
judgment. No doubt man had a primary part in the 
whole of this theogony, and the powers of initiative 
of the individual soul were decisive within their own 
borders. 

As to dogmas concerning God and His operations, 
it is widely admitted by the Christian writers of the 
fourth century that they have to be interpreted alle- 
gorically and sub specie aetermtatls ; some go so far as 
to place original sin outside any determination of space 
and time, as an allegory of what happens eternally in 
the soul of man. The Trinity is also generally con- 
sidered as a symbol not only of God's essence and 
operations, but also of the faculties of man. The 
Father is reflected in memory (closely connected to 

199 



ST. FRANCIS 



the " memory of pure ideas " of Plato) ; the Son, in 
the understanding ; the Holy Spirit in the will. The 
eventful disputes about the nature, or natures, of 
Christ, are the spontaneous outcome of such a general 
tendency of thought ; and the Church will solve the 
difficulty, ad instpientem, by simply stating the co- 
existence in Christ of the two natures, divine and human. 
Neo-platonism lends itself easily to the philosophical 
interpretation of the new dogmas. God is the pure 
intelligence in which the ideas exist, and in Him alone 
we have a vague memory of our lost perfection ; our 
will aims at Him, as long as it is a real will and not a 
disguised nolere. In Him, the three faculties are 
perfectly equivalent and interchangeable : He gives 
existence to all that He thinks, and His will is both 
almighty and fully rational. The existence of all 
things consists in the fact that He has complete and 
harmonious knowledge of and will concerning them. 
We know things not because they exist, but because 
their essence is intelligible to us through our funda- 
mental knowledge, which is our knowledge of God. 
" Verbum sempiterne didtur^ et eo semptterne dkuntur 
omnia " (Augustine, Confessionum Lib. XI). Again, 
the immediate knowledge of God has been made 
difficult for men by original sin, that has veiled their 
deep divine nature even to themselves ; but through 
contemplation of revealed truth and active and pious 
life, men can arise to that state of grace, in which the 
essence of all things reveals itself through a higher 

200 



FRANCISCAN THOUGHT 



logical medium. The pia vetula then, the humble and 
illiterate old woman, who lives in faith and hope and 
charity, has at least the same chances of contemplating 
the Word, as the subtlest and the most learned of 
doctors. 

It is clear that these doctrines make the very exis- 
tence of a knowable world dependent upon, and sub- 
servient to, some initiative of human personality. They 
admit that a world exists, but not knowable, or, to say 
the least, not intelligible ; we only understand things 
through God, and our similarity and proximity to God 
is in the proportion of our worthiness. Thus, what is 
dark in our intelligence will become clear to us through 
the action of our will, through our deeds ; what we 
call, with despair, the impotence of our will, will be 
rationally explained by our intelligence, which is, 
finally, our effort of contemplating God, our illumina- 
tion. Sin has no positive essence of its own : it is only 
a shade of our human light, the no/ere of our vo/ere ; we 
sin in so far as we fail to will. God is at the beginning 
and at the end of all, but the soul of man is intrinsic 
to His operation and being, so that the interior homo 
always finds himself, so to speak, on the way between 
what God is and what He does, and piety and con- 
templation bring man ever nearer to God's cyclic 
perfection and plenitude. 

We have now summarized these few lines of Patristic 
and, mostly, Augustinian philosophy, because they 
afford the inspiring principles of Scholasticism as a 

201 



ST. FRANCIS 



whole and, in particular, of the doctrines of the Fran- 
ciscan Schools in the Middle Ages. Technically speak- 
ing, there is no such thing as a Franciscan philosophy, 
even as there is no Dominican philosophy. Moreover, 
the rivalry between the two Orders never went so far 
as to prevent the scholars of one Order from being 
influenced by masters of the other. But the Dominicans, 
having as their main function preaching, and therefore 
also disputing with infidels and heretics, were of neces- 
sity more learned about unorthodox doctrines, and 
their training was more in philosophy and logic than 
in theology and metaphysics ; whereas the Franciscans, 
who had to spread religion through the example of 
their humility and poverty, were more concerned with 
the principles of theology than with the " vanities " 
of philosophy. 

It soon happened that Dominicans, in challenging 
the new Aristotelian tendencies that were spreading 
into western countries, became imbibed with the same 
doctrines which they set out to criticize, and often 
became admirers, if not followers, of Moorish com- 
mentators and Hebrew philosophers and translators, who 
indeed had opened a new horizon to their researches. 
Both Orders meant to defend the dogmas and the 
teachings of the Fathers ; but the Franciscans, under 
the inspiration of their holy Founder, had a more 
immediate feeling of the value of Neo-platonic and 
Patristic philosophy ; whereas the Dominicans felt 
that the old faith had, so to say, to conquer those new 

202 



FRANCISCAN THOUGHT 



philosophies and make them subservient to its own 
truth. More than Franciscans, Dominicans felt the 
importance and the truth of Aristotelianism ; more 
than Franciscans, they realized the value of rational 
truth in itself. Franciscans, on the other hand, had a 
more intimate and lively persuasion about those truths 
and dogmas, which both were striving to defend. 

It was an age of settlement and not of creation ; of 
reflection and criticism more than of original thought. 
The endless, overwhelming dialecticism of the Schools 
became a rule and a habit ; rival Orders and sects 
after a time got each other's defects, and developed 
affinities to each other's doctrines. The last in the 
series of the great Franciscan Doctors, Duns Scotus, 
unlike his earlier and greater compatriot Erigena, 
shows an unbounded love for subtle and often irrelevant 
arguments, and, though he tries to emphasize every 
small difference between his thought and that of St. 
Thomas, he is at bottom much more of a Thomist, 
we venture to say, than even St. Thomas himself. 
Indeed, Thomism is the life and soul of Scholasticism, 
not taken in its foundations, but in its own peculiar 
tendencies and work. 

Thus, to understand the real meaning of the words 
of our title " Franciscan thought," we must go back 
and consider the personality of St. Francis and the work 
of that one Doctor who felt his personal influence, 
namely St. Bonaventure. 

St. Francis is the dream of the Fathers that has 

203 



ST. FRANCIS 



become ostensibly true. Being wealthy, cultured and 
worldly, he chose by internal illumination to become 
poor and humble, to think and to speak in terms plain 
and accessible even to the most ignorant peasants. 
Having many qualities and many chances of becoming 
one of the great of the world, he chose to be like the 
proverbial poor and illiterate old woman. Pious action 
and divine contemplation are with him so completely 
fused together as to produce an almost godlike per- 
fection : and they fill the whole of his life. He preached 
by example ; his followers gave no special doctrine, 
their main ideal being the imitation of Christ through 
the pattern of their Master. All the highest intellectual 
conclusions of the Fathers appear in St. Francis under 
the aspect of reality, of deeds, of life : as though he 
had read all their writings and made it his purpose to 
realize them in life. His knowledge and understanding 
are one with his love and charity : he understands his 
corporal sore He, the lower creatures of God, because he 
loves them in God ; and likewise his spiritual brothers, 
that is, men. In both cases his love and his contem- 
plation are also charitable, that is active. His greed 
for perfection, for ascesis, is practical ; ideals are, with 
him, dominant feelings which become realities. It is 
like a new Incarnation. 

So far as philosophy, in a technical sense, is con- 
cerned, St. Francis comes after a time in which, among 
Christians and Moslems as well, there had been great 
waves of prejudice against philosophers. The rulers 

204 



FRANCISCAN THOUGHT 



of Spain had often been compelled to burn philosophers 
and destroy rich libraries in the open squares, in order 
to appease the fury of the fanatic populace. Among 
Christians, fanaticism had already produced public 
manifestations against the learned, and the growth of 
clandestine and sometimes monstrous doctrines and 
sects. The Church, in her preoccupation with worldly 
interests, was hardly able to resist the waves of popular 
zeal for asceticism and pure religion. St. Francis alone 
weathered the storm, chiefly because he represented 
in himself all the noblest forces that had contributed 
to raise that storm. He was not, as some have depicted 
him, an enemy of philosophy ; nor yet a philosopher. 
But he is a living philosophy, a Weltanschauung, com- 
pletely expressed in terms of reality. 

St. Bonaventure expresses the same reality in words 
borrowed from the Fathers and from the Schools. 
His doctrine is closely dependent upon that of St. 
Augustine, with the added experience that a man, 
Francis of Assisi, had so, perfectly realized in his life the 
principles of illumination and piety. With Bonaventure 
we are still within the borders of early-Christian Neo- 
platonism. This world is made of vestigia, imagines and 
similitudines of God. There is a vestigium of Him in 
everything, an image in our human nature, a similitude 
in the nature of the angels. Our spiritual ascension to 
God (Itinerarium mentis in Deum) goes through six 
successive grades or steps : sense, imagination, reason, 
intellection (a primary understanding), intelligence, 

205 



ST. FRANCIS 



and the synteresis^ the final spark in which intelligence 
and love combine to give our minds, not only the image, 
but the similitude of God. Through the lowest grade, 
sense, we do not come to know the substance of things, 
but only a simititudo of them ; we can penetrate the 
real substance of things only through our supreme 
assimilation with God, who is the common origin of 
things and minds alike. 

Philosophy, ethics and the arts are thus made 
subservient to and dependent upon, practical mys- 
ticism ; all knowledge becomes essentially a branch 
of theology. Such a conclusion may at first appear 
paradoxical to our modern minds. Indeed, already in 
the most prosperous days of Scholasticism it was chal- 
lenged by many. It was the tendency of the time, 
also under the influence of the newly discovered or 
newly published works of Aristotle and commentaries 
of Averroes and other Moorish philosophers, to widen 
the gulf between philosophy and theology, and to 
fight Averroists, sceptics and heretics on their own 
ground, which was the ground of pure philosophy, 
free from theological intrusion. 

It looked as though the human mind was tired of 
the continuous creative effort which was forced upon 
it by the mystical doctrines of the past, with their 
strict equation between worthiness and wisdom. People 
really wanted the restful thought of a natural world 
in itself to be found there, in front of them, and to be 
objectively and logically studied ; they wanted to be 

206 



FRANCISCAN THOUGHT 



able to develop a knowledge of things irrespective of 
their knowledge of themselves. The objectivism of 
Aristotle suited the inclinations of the new epoch and 
of this mental attitude : thus modern thought was 
started ! It was St. Thomas, on lines partly fixed by 
his master Albert of Bollstadt, who made the greatest 
and most successful effort to reconcile the Platonism 
of the Fathers with the Aristotelianism which was 
already spreading in the Schools. He may be said to 
have taken action against both tendencies, partly 
criticizing them, partly adding entirely new problems 
to the old ones. 

Here we must confine outself to noting, as we said 
before, that the doctrine of St. Thomas was up to a 
point official at the end of the thirteenth century, and 
that the schools of Franciscans and Dominicans had 
interacted to such an extent, that Duns Scotus, a Fran- 
ciscan who lives and works towards the end of that 
century, appears to be just as much of a Thomist as 
any average scholar of his time would be. And with 
all his love for scholastic subtleties and endless demon- 
strations, Scotus remains as one of the most conclusive 
minds of Scholasticism. 

With St. Thomas, the problem concerning the 
individual subject of knowledge had entered the sphere 
of philosophy once and for all, and it remains one of 
the central problems of modern speculation. Scotus 
takes the individual subject for granted, but he argues 
that there must be an objective nature common to both 

207 



ST. FRANCIS 



the subject and the object of knowledge : a formless 
and senseless reality, out of which all things grow. 
Such reality stands like the basis of the immense cone 
of the universe : the vertex of the cone being the pure 
essence of God. Our effort of knowledge must move 
from intelligence, which is a reality of a superior 
nature, and go towards the lower grades, to understand 
them in their proper reality and nature, and thus to 
apprehend how God operates all through the universe ; 
the lowest type of reality presents us with the deepest 
scientific problems. Ethics, on the other hand, tends 
towards the summit of reality through action, a faculty 
of a kind opposite to that of knowledge, as it is free 
of any limitation from below and, within the limits 
consented by the dogma of Grace, entirely responsible 
to itself. The summit of reality being God, ethics and 
theology form one body and one soul : theology merely 
explains in practical terms what is known by us through 
revelation, authority and tradition ; action must draw 
inspiration from such teachings without questioning. 
Therefore, theology is not a real science, and the 
scholastic method of dialectics ought not to be applied 
to it. The principle that philosophy should be " theo- 
logiae anctlla" is thus abandoned, as theology is no 
longer a disputable subject, and philosophy (and there- 
fore all sciences) is left free to its own function and its 
own destiny. This doctrine, which even in our days 
finds followers in the ecclesiastical ranks,is not thoroughly 
orthodox : the Church requires that a ratlonablle 

208 



Plate VIII. 




By the courtesy of Sir Joseph Diiveen. 

St. Francis receiving the Stigmata. 
By Sassetta (1444). 



ST. FRANCIS 



the subject and the object of knowledge : a forml 
and senseless reality, out of which all things grc 
Such reality stands like the basis of the immense cc 
of the universe : the vertex of the cone being the p\ 
essence of God. Our effort of knowledge must me 
from intelligence, which is a reality of a super 
nature, and go towards the lower grades, to understa 
them in their proper reality and nature, and thus 
apprehend how God operates all through the univers 
the lowest type of reality presents us with the deep 
scientific problems. Ethics, on the other hand, ter 
towards the summit of reality through action, a facu 
of a kind opposite to that of knowledge, as it is f: 
of any limitation from below and, within the lirr 
consented by the dogma of Grace, entirely responsi 
to itself. The summit of reality being God, ethics a 
theology form one body and one soul : theology mer< 
explains in practical terms what is known by us throu 
revelation, authority and tradition ; action must dr 
inspiration from such teachings without questionii 
Therefore, theology is not a real science, and 1 
scholastic method of dialectics ought not to be appli 
to it. The principle that philosophy should be " th 
logtae ancilla " is thus abandoned, as theology is 
longer a disputable subject, and philosophy (and the 
fore all sciences) is left free to its own function and 
own destiny. This doctrine, which even in our d; 
finds followers in the ecclesiastical ranks,is notthorougl 
orthodox : the Church requires that a rational. 

208 



Plate VIII. 







By the courtesy of Sir Joseph Duvetn. 

St. Francis receiving the Stigmata. 
By Sassetta (1444). 



FRANCISCAN THOUGHT 



ob$equium y not a blind one, should be paid to the revealed 
truths of God, and that the truths of men, alias philo- 
sophy, should be consistent with the former ones and, 
to some extent, subservient to them. 

Scotus marks the end of the most interesting period 
of Scholasticism ; the Schools went on teaching and 
discussing for a long time after him, but their events 
would interest a history of culture in general more 
than the history of philosophy. The long-aged fight 
between nominalists and realists of different sects 
had already found its essential terms or extremes when 
the Doctor Subtilts published his works. The fourteenth 
century confronts us with the beginning of Humanism 
and, thus, of the Renaissance ; the Schools are played 
out of the main roads of western culture. 

It is important to note that the mentality of 
Humanism is born rather under the auspices of Plato 
and Augustine than those of Aristotle and Thomas. 
Petrarch, perhaps the first Humanist in the Middle 
Ages, has much indeed to say against the Aristotelians ; 
he is a mystic and a Platonist. The same can be said, 
in later times, of other representatives of more modern 
tendencies : Marsilio Ficino, Pico, Leo the Hebrew, 
Erasmus, and so many others. But Pomponazzi, who 
held that the existence of the soul cannot be philo- 
sophically demonstrated, was originally an Aristotelian ; 
one century later, Telesio, who developed the embryo 
of a pantheistic naturalism, again sprang up of Aris- 
totelian traditions, although he had to fight during the 
p ' 209 



ST. FRANCIS 



whole of his life against the organized Aristotelians of 
his days, mainly the Dominicans, who were then the 
guardians of philosophical orthodoxy, as the Fran- 
ciscans had been three centuries earlier. After Telesio 
followed Campanella and Bruno, who were to a large 
extent his disciples. The latter, who also taught in 
England in the early Elizabethan days, held a pantheism 
of a spiritualistic kind ; and human will, with him, has 
a higher importance than, perhaps, with any other 
thinker of his days. Later on we have the empiricism 
of Francis Bacon, till the new spirit in philosophy finds 
its clearest expression in the Rationalism of Descartes. 

Recent researches, by Gilson and others, have shown 
how deeply the problems of Cartesian philosophy are 
connected with the mentality of the Schools, and mainly 
of the Dominicans, who had for centuries a stronghold 
of their own in the University of Paris. After Des- 
cartes, so much has been changed in the sphere of 
philosophy, and still the original distinction between 
the attitude of the Dominicans and that of the Fran- 
ciscans in the Middle Ages may be traced, under 
different forms and new terminologies, in our con- 
temporary philosophic thought. Monism, intuitionism, 
voluntarism, finalism, pragmatism, idealism, all stand 
on one side (to put it roughly, the Franciscans) ; 
dualism, rationalism, positivism, realism stand on the 
other. 

On the Continent, at least, the general trend of 
contemporary philosophy may be said to be anti- 

210 



FRANCISCAN THOUGHT 



rationalistic. The " contingentisme " of Boutroux is 
not altogether inconsistent with the " voluntarism " of 
the Fathers of the Church. The idea of intuition of 
Bergson suggests the illuminatio of Bonaventure, as in 
the " e"lan vital " one could trace a late development of 
the synteresis, mentioned above. Maurice Blondel, a 
Catholic, develops a theory of action which concludes 
to an " option necessaire " : man must either nullify 
his own being and his own will (a thing which he cannot 
do) or admit the metaphysical truth of God, expressed 
by the simple words : " II est." This reminds us of 
the onthologic proof of the existence of God by St. 
Anselm of Aosta ; a proof which was itself grounded 
on the Augustinian and, generally speaking, Patristic 
doctrine of illumination. Louis Rougier, if we are 
not mistaken in interpreting his criticism of the " para- 
logismes " of Kant and other writers, leads us to an 
original form of voluntarism and, in the field of logic, 
to intellectualism as opposed to rationalism. 

There would be much to say as to the differences 
between modern tendencies to pragmatism (in a broad 
sense, including not only the doctrine of James and his 
school, but many others like, for instance, the so-called 
humanism of Prof. J. Schiller), and the voluntarism of 
the Franciscan tendency. The latter is deeply rooted 
in the Platonic and Neo-platonic principles that what 
really exists are the universals, universal ideas of things, 
that have no full existence but in the mind of God, who 
thinks and creates reality by one simple and extra- 

211 



ST. FRANCIS 



temporal act of His nature. In the case of men, action 
and thought never melt into a such complete fusion, 
owing to their imperfect natures ; but, in so far as man 
is illuminated, therefore intimately connected to God 
through the divine element which he has in himself, his 
actions and his thought will harmonize too, with the 
result of a gradual ascension of his personality in Deum. 
Here, God stands between man on the one hand, and 
truth and perfection on the other ; God is thus the 
actual, though not the immediate, source of science 
and ethics. Now, with our contemporary Pragmatists, 
action develops itself immediately as a form of ex- 
perience, and thus builds up, not perhaps the ultimate 
object of knowledge, but knowledge itself, with its 
own universals, kinds and species. God is to be found, 
if anywhere, at the final end of the process. 

A medieval Franciscan would or might object that 
the modern idea places outside man the aims and motives 
of his action ; his mind is moved by them, and it is 
moved from outside : therefore, man cannot have a 
real intelligentia of what those motives are ; whereas, 
the Christian God is also co-natural to men, intimate 
to their minds and aspirations. 

Modern Idealism alone, we suggest, can coun- 
tenance a such criticism. With Croce, for instance, 
pure concept is in its own nature so indifferent and 
irrelevant to practice, and practice in its economic 
mood is so disentangled from universals of all kinds, 
that the problems of how we can know our aims or 

212 



FRANCISCAN THOUGHT 



how the ideals of our activity can be fixed through 
knowledge, do not even arise. Indeed, he simply 
leaves such problems to be dealt with at a further stage 
of speculation. When he says that the unity of the 
life of the mind through its distinct categories is history 
taken in the whole and interpreted in a spiritual sense, 
he opens the ground for a new series of difficulties : 
from his one-sided immanentism and his all-inclusive 
history we learn too much, but practically, we learn 
nothing. Our active and willing mind, entirely merged 
into this history which is so much like the objective 
world of Positivists nay, our mind being history itself 
everything goes on as being the life of the spirito, 
but the spirito has no essential ideal and no final 
orientation. 

In the doctrine of the " pure act " by Gentile we 
could find, perhaps, a nearer approximation to the main 
conception of the Franciscans. This " pure act," which 
is the extratemporal life, and eternal creation, of reality, 
is subjective but not individual. It is the act of the 
mind, and the mind lives and exists in it and for it : 
very much the same as the Verbum of the Evangelist. 
The act is thoroughly human and rational, not because 
it belongs to, or depends upon, humanity or intelligence, 
but because humanity and rationality belong to this 
metaphysical activity and are among the manifestations 
of its life. So that, pure logic and reality in itself are, 
for Gentile, nothing but the moment of abstraction 
in the dialectic life of the act ; indeed, its concreteness 



ST. FRANCIS 



is to be found in creative action, which also is real, and not 
purely formal, understanding. " Verum ipsumjactum" 
as runs the famous axiom of Vico. The progress of 
ascension of human personality lies, for this doctrine, 
in the effort to overcome, in every actual situation of 
life, the attitudes of irresponsible and, so to say, natural 
subjectivism, and of passive objectivism ; the syn- 
teresh is to be found in the third moment of the triad, 
when mind is no more prone to either egotism or 
fatalism, but realizes the unity of the two elements 
without destroying them. 

A new Father, who would take this philosophy and 
develop a fresh system of theology out of it, has not 
yet appeared. But Gentile and most of his followers 
call themselves Christians, and, some of them, even 
Catholics. The Church itself, of course, is more 
suspicious of this doctrine than of any other in con- 
temporary philosophy : as this one comes nearer the 
essentials of dogma, though it moves from a strictly 
critical basis. Indeed, ever since the thirteenth century, 
the Church of Rome has been suspicious of any meta- 
physics except that of St. Thomas ; therefore it en- 
courages dualism in all forms, positive and mathematical 
researches, but no creative and original metaphysics. 
It thus happens that the most confirmed atheists are 
sometimes much nearer than mystics to the official 
attitude of the Church. Mr. Bertrand Russell, perhaps, 
would be much astonished if he were told that his 
mental attitude is much nearer to Roman orthodoxy 

214 



FRANCISCAN THOUGHT 



than that of many other philosophers or scientists of 
our day. 

As a matter of fact, even physics seem now to move 
towards a somewhat subjectivist and voluntarist vision 
of the world : Relativism speaks, so far, only in terms 
of experience and material facts ; but from the experi- 
mental admission that our experience of reality changes 
with the motion of the knowing subject, it will be led, 
gradually, to admit that reality can change according 
to the will of the subject. It will then understand, 
what scientists usually denied all through the last two 
centuries, that there is a metaphysical problem at the 
very origin of the physical problem. Moreover, such 
a metaphysical problem will be grounded, we suppose, 
on the admission of the original creativeness of our 
minds : which leads to speculative problems not un- 
congenial to the Augustinian and Franciscan line of 
thought (which is, also, the most ancient and most 
generally admitted foundation of Christian philosophy). 

I dare hope that these remarks of mine, necessarily 
abridged and summary, may excite the curiosity of 
some student and lead him to study the many con- 
nections between Franciscan and modern philosophies, 
by accepting the main assumption : that Francis- 
canism, in the field of thought as in that of religious 
experience, ought still to be a leading force in our days. 



215 



THE LAST TWO YEARS OF THE LIFE QF 

ST. FRANCIS 

BY WALTER SETON, M.A., D.LIT. 



THE LAST TWO YEARS OF THE LIFE OF 

ST. FRANCIS 

THE Committee responsible for the celebrations in 
connection with the Seventh Centenary of St. Francis 
have largely concentrated attention upon the last two 
years of his life, the period lying between the great 
experiences on Mount Alverna in September 1224 and 
the Death of the Poverello at the Portiuncula in 
October 1226. For this reason it has seemed to me 
suitable to try to reconstruct as accurately as possible 
the events of those last years and to form out of the 
somewhat scattered materials a connected narrative. 
Before, however, that is attempted, there are some 
general considerations which must be pointed out. 
There is no one place or record to which the reader 
can go to obtain such a connected narrative of that 
period or indeed any other period of the Life of 
St. Francis. It is true that there is one section of the 
First Life by Thomas of Celano from Chapter 88 to 
the end which does claim to be devoted mainly to those 
years, and which does contain a good deal of material 
assignable to those years. But not one of those chroni- 
clers upon whom our knowledge of S. Francis is based 
writes in the connected and chronological manner 
which is expected of a modern historical writer. Where 
dates are given, they are in many cases vague and 

219 



ST. FRANCIS 



sometimes inconsistent with one another. Anyone who 
takes the trouble to compare in detail the narratives 
given by typical modern writers, such as Father Cuth- 
bert and Mr. Joergensen, will discover considerable 
differences between them, due no doubt to varying 
interpretations of the data contained in the sources. 
For this state of affairs it would be unreasonable to 
blame the chroniclers, who were primarily concerned 
with writing narratives of an edifying character, based 
of course partly on ascertained fact, but also based 
largely on verbal tradition. I believe, however, that 
by a fairly minute examination of the indications of 
time and place given in Thomas of Celano, in the 
Mirror of Perfection, and in Bonaventura, with occa- 
sional reference to the Fioretti, it is possible to recon- 
struct those two important and interesting years which 
were the closing scene in an apostolate, perhaps the 
most remarkable since that of Our Lord Himself. 
Fortunately there is an exact and undisputed date at 
the close of the period, viz. the death of St. Francis, 
which occurred at the Portiuncula at sunset on 3rd 
October I226, 1 and an approximate date at its begin- 
ning, viz. the Stigmatisation of St. Francis on Mount 
Alverna, which occurred either on or about the Feast 
of Holy Cross, i/j-th September 1224.2 It is the 
period lying between the Stigmatisation and the Death 
of the Saint which is to be the special subject of this 
study. 

1 I Cel. 88. a S. Bonaventura, Leg. Maj. XIII. 3. 

220 



LAST TWO YEARS OF LIFE OF ST. FRANCIS 

The Stigmatisation is so large a subject in itself 
that I cannot do more here than refer to it. I 
treated the subject as carefully as I could in the compass 
of one lecture which I gave in London in 1925 and 
which I published later in the Hibbert Journal, 1 and 
in spite of the vigorous reply which that article drew 
from Mr. G. G. Coulton, 2 I have not abandoned the 
position which I then took. That view was summarised 
as follows. 

I believe that in September 1224 probably on 
Holy Cross Day St. Francis, while praying and fasting 
on Mount Alverna, experienced a vision of a seraph ; 
that after the vision he found that he bore in his hands 
and feet and side, wounds or marks which were then 
and remained afterwards the cause of pain ; that these 
marks remained until his death, two years later, that 
he concealed them carefully during his life, but that a 
few intimates saw them even before his death ; that 
after his death the Stigmata were seen by numerous 
credible witnesses ; that the wounds were not self- 
inflicted ; that the case of St. Francis was the first on 
record in which any human being experienced Stigma- 
tisation, though there have been many cases since. 

The period which St. Francis spent on Alverna 
before and after this supreme spiritual experience 
cannot be precisely defined, but he must have arrived 
on Alverna some time early in August, as one of his 
objects was to fast in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary 

1 July 1925, pp. 633-643. a Hibbert Journal, January, 1926. 

221 



ST. FRANCIS 



and the Archangel Michael from the Assumption of 
Our Lady (August I5th) until Michaelmas Day. 1 It 
is to this period on Alverna that we can safely assign 
the gift to Brother Leo of the piece of parchment 
containing on one side the Praises and on the other the 
Blessing of Brother Leo. Sufficient evidence for this 
is provided by taking together the note added by the 
hand of Leo on the parchment and the narrative of 
Celano, 2 who does not actually mention that Leo 
was the tempted brother, who so greatly desired some 
writing from the hand of the Saint. 

On 3oth September 1224 Francis left Alverna for 
the last time. The most detailed narrative of the 
journey from Alverna to the Portiuncula is that given 
by the Fioretti in the Fourth Reflection on the Stigmata, 
though there are accounts contained in Celano. Riding 
on an ass, for the wounds in his feet made it impossible 
for him to travel on foot, he left Alverna, taking the way 
through Monte Acuto, Monte Arcoppe and Foresto. 
Just as later he was to turn and give his memorable 
blessing to Assisi, so too before he lost sight of Alverna 
he turned to take farewell of the place which was 
sanctified for him by the spiritual climax of his life : 
" Farewell, Mount of God, Holy Mount, Mons coagu- 
latus, Mons pinguis, Mons in quo beneplacitum est Deo 
habitare, Farewell, Monte Alverna ; God the Father, 
God the Son, God the Spirit bless thee, abide in peace, 
since we shall see each other nevermore." 

1 Blessing of Leo. 2 II Cel. 49. 

222 



LAST TWO YEARS OF LIFE OF ST. FRANCIS 

Francis, accompanied by Leo and a peasant, made 
his way down through Borgo San Sepolcro, and in 
spite of the fact that the townspeople were crowding 
around the little party, Francis was so wrapped in 
prayer and contemplation that he was even unaware 
that he was passing through the town, and after they 
had left the town behind he enquired when they would 
be getting near San Sepolcro I 1 By the first evening 
they arrived at Monte Casale, and, according to the 
Fioretti, they remained there some days. From Monte 
Casale Francis and his companion pushed on to Citta di 
Castello, and there they stayed a month at the urgent 
prayer of the inhabitants. 2 It must have been accord- 
ingly some time in November that Francis arrived back 
at Santa Maria degli Angeli, the goal of his desire. 
We do not know very much as to the homecoming 
from Alverna to the Portiuncula, though if we want 
to know what did not occur we have only to study the 
pages of Mr. Chesterton's popular volume. " His 
heart rejoiced " says Mr. Chesterton " when they 
saw afar off on the Assisian hill the solemn pillars of 
the Portiuncula." 3 It may be observed that the 
Portiuncula is not on a hill, that it was then surrounded 
by a forest, and that it has no solemn pillars which 
could be seen afar off, especially by a man who was 
nearly blind ! 

At this point it is necessary to go back and to refer 
to an incident which must presumably be assigned to a 

1 II Gel. 98. a Fioretti, 4th Reflec. * P. 167. 

223 



ST. FRANCIS 



date in 1224 previous to the visit to Alverna. Celano 
in his First Life tells us of an occurrence when the 
Saint and Brother Elias were together at Foligno. 
Elias had a vision in the night, in which he was bidden 
by a priest of venerable aspect : " Arise, brother, and 
tell Brother Francis . . . that two years hence, the 
Lord calling him, he will enter upon the way of all 
flesh." 1 The same incident is mentioned in the Mirror 
of Perfection in a conversation which Francis had with 
Elias in the autumn of I226. 2 

I do not think that there is any clear indication as 
to where St. Francis was or what he was doing between 
November 1224 and the summer of 1225. It seems 
likely from one chapter in Celano's First Life 3 that 
after his return to the Portiuncula he undertook a 
fresh tour of evangelisation, and it is presumably 
about this period that Celano writes : 

" He filled all the earth with Christ's Gospel, so 
that often in one day he would make the circuit of four 
or five villages or even towns, preaching to every one 
the Gospel of the kingdom of God . . . and though 
he could no longer walk he went round the country 
riding on an ass." 

It was during the first half of 1225 that the Saint's 
health, which had been failing ever since his return 
from the East, got rapidly worse and his eye-trouble 
became chronic. We learn from the Mirror of Per- 
fection 4 that the Cardinal Bishop of Ostia, becoming 

1 I Cel. 109. a Spec. Perf. 121. 3 I Cel. 97. 4 Spec. Perf. 91, 115. 

224 



LAST TWO YEARS OF LIFE OF ST. FRANCIS 

seriously anxious as to his friend's health, warned him 
gravely against his persistent neglect of his body, since 
his life was of value to the whole Church. From the 
same source we gather that it was the pressure from the 
Bishop of Ostia which led Francis to start out for 
Rieti to seek advice and treatment for his eye-malady 
from a celebrated physician there. Celano and the 
Mirror of Perfection are rather vague as to the depar- 
ture from the Portiuncula for Rieti, but we can be 
fairly certain as to the date of the journey to Rieti, 
though Father Cuthbert has, I feel sure, gone wrong 
in the date. The Little Flowers and also one MS of 
the Mirror of Perfection 1 (viz. Vat. 4354) give us 
details which appear to fit in with the other facts. 
Apparently Francis left the Portiuncula and went first 
to San Damiano, to visit Clare, with the intention of 
staying one night only and then going on to Rieti. 
During that night he became so seriously ill that it 
was impossible for him to go on to Rieti, and he 
stayed at San Damiano in a wattle hut put up for him 
in the courtyard. It is to this stay at San Damiano 
that the Mirror of Perfection refers, telling us that he 
became completely blind for more than sixty days. 
The outstanding event of those sixty days of pain and 
darkness was the composition of the one great poem 
of Saint Francis, which has earned for itself a place 
in world literature, the poem variously known as 
the " Canticle of the Sun " and as the " Praises of 

1 Spec. Perf. 100. 
Q 225 



ST. FRANCIS 



Creatures." It is not necessary for us to examine too 
critically the question whether this wonderful poem was, 
as the Mirror of Perfection implies, the spontaneous 
outburst of the sick and suffering saint after a night 
rendered sleepless by numbers of mice running over 
his face and form. We may more safely accept the fact 
that it was composed during this sojourn at San Damiano, 
and we may recognise in it, whenever or wherever 
written, one of the most perfect expressions in words of 
the love of God and of all things created by God, 
which was the characteristic feature of Francis through- 
out his life. Renan speaks of the Canticle in the 
following words : " le plus beau morceau de poesie 
religieuse depuis les Evangiles, 1'expression la plus 
complete du sentiment religieux moderne." 1 To that 
same period at San Damiano may be assigned the narra- 
tive 2 of the dispute between the Bishop of Assisi and 
the Podestd of the city, which was ended amicably by 
the intervention of St. Francis, who sent one of the 
brothers to recite to them the Canticle of the Sun with 
the additional verses which he had composed : 

c< Praise be to Thee, my Lord, for those who pardon grant for love of Thee, 
And weakness bear and bufferings : 
Blessed are they who in peace abide, 
For by Thee, Most High, they shall be crowned." 

From San Damiano St. Francis passed on to Rieti to 
seek some alleviation for his pain. Fortunately we can 

1 Nouvelles Etudes d'Histoire Religieuse, Paris, 1884, p* 331. 

2 Spec. Perf. 101. 

226 



LAST TWO YEARS OF LIFE OF ST. FRANCIS 

define to some extent the date of his visit to Rieti. 
Celano tells us in his First Life 1 that when he arrived 
at Rieti he was honourably welcomed by the whole 
Roman Curia, which was at that time staying in that 
city. It is known that the Papal Court was at Rieti 
from about 23rd June 1225 to 3ist January 1226. 
Father Cuthbert is, I feel sure, wrong in saying that 
the Papal Court was in Rieti until the end of I226, 2 
and consequently in assigning the visit of Francis to 
1226. It seems to me most probable that he reached 
Rieti in the late summer or early autumn of 1225 and 
that his stay there was a long one. It is clear that for 
some part of his stay he lived in the Palace of the 
Bishop of Rieti, for Celano relates 3 the very character- 
istic story of how Francis, with natural sympathy for a 
poor woman suffering like himself from eye-disease, 
gave her his cloak and twelve loaves, an incident recorded 
also in the Mirror of Perfection. In Rieti itself occurred 
also the incident of Canon Gideon, 4 who was cured by 
the Saint but afterwards returned to his life of sin, 
that of the tempted brother who found relief from his 
temptation by securing parings of the Saint's finger- 
nails, 5 that of the provision of cloth for six tunics in 
answer to the prayer of the Saint, 6 and the pathetic tale 
of how divine music was sent to comfort Francis during 
his wakeful hours at night, when his companion had 

1 I Gel. 99. * II Cel. 41. 

2 P. 351, n. 3. 5 II Cel. 42. 

3 II Cel. 92 : also Spec. Perf. 33. II Cel. 43. 

227 



ST. FRANCIS 



felt it unfitting to bring him human music, lest he should 
be thought guilty of frivolity. 1 Apart from the stay in 
Rieti itself, it appears that Francis spent some time in 
places or hermitages around Rieti, though there is no 
means of defining with any certainty at what period 
this took place. Thus we find him at Fonte Colombo, 2 
where he underwent the painful ordeal of the cauteri- 
sation of his face in the vain hope of improving his 
sight. The Mirror of Perfection tells us that this took 
place at Fonte Colombo, though Celano describes 
the incident without naming the place. To the 
same hermitage the Mirror of Perfection assigns the 
incident, also recorded by Celano without specification 
of place, 3 in which Francis desired that his physician 
should be invited to dine and in which the necessary 
viands were supernaturally provided to the relief of the 
empty larder of the Friars. Another place near Rieti 
where Francis stayed was the Church of St. Fabian, 
and it was there that the vineyard of the poor priest 
who was his host was ruined by the constant visits of 
the faithful, but nevertheless produced more than its 
usual quantity of wine. 4 

From Rieti Francis made his way to Siena, accom- 
panied by a doctor perhaps the one who had tended 
him at Rieti. As they traversed the plain by Rocca 
Campilii they met, according to Celano's narrative, 5 

1 II. Cel. 126. 4 Spec. Perf. 104. 

2 II Cel. 166, Spec. Perf. 115. II Cel. 93. 
8 II Cel. 44, Spec. Perf. no. 

228 



LAST TWO YEARS OF LIFE OF ST. FRANCIS 

the three women who greeted him with the salutation 
" Welcome, Lady Poverty," and then vanished from 
human sight. 

We have, as far as I know, no definite means of 
ascertaining the period of St. Francis' stay at Siena, 
since we are not sure exactly when he went there from 
Rieti. There is, however, one indication of the date 
when he left Siena for his last journey back to Assisi. 
Celano tells us in his First Life 1 that it was in the sixth 
month before his death, when he was at Siena for the 
curing of his eye-malady, that he began to be seriously 
ill, so ill as to cause Brother Elias to come to him 
hurriedly from Assisi to prevent the possibility of his 
dying at Siena. This proves that he was at Siena 
until about the end of April 1226. Little is recorded 
about this stay at Siena. There is just the incident 
of the brother from Breschia, 2 who succeeded in satisfying 
his desire to see the Stigmata in the hands of the Saint 
by a ruse to which Brother Pacificus was a party. It 
may also be during this stay at Siena that Francis 
received from a Sienese nobleman a pheasant which 
was sent to him to be eaten, but which became instead 
a kind of pet and would not feed except in the presence 
of Francis. 3 Much more important than these stories 
are two chapters in the Mirror of Perfection, which 
relate to these closing months in the earthly career of 
the Saint. The first 4 of these is the conversation with 

1 I Cel. 105. 3 II. Cel. 170. 

2 II Cel. 137. * Spec. Perf. 10. 

229 



ST. FRANCIS 



a certain Bonaventura on the subject of the method in 
which the Friars were to secure places in which to dwell 
or to build churches in cities. The whole chapter 
breathes the spirit of the most primitive Franciscanism, 
being in closest harmony with the ideals of Poverty for 
which Francis himself stood without wavering. They 
are to build poor little houses of wattle and little cells 
in which from time to time the brothers may pray and 
work ; and they are to build small churches and not 
to make large churches. It is better for the brothers 
to make small and poor little buildings, observing their 
profession and giving a good example to their neigh- 
bours, than that they should act against their vows, 
giving to others an evil example. 

Of a similar character was the scene 1 after Francis 
had had a severe haemorrhage from the stomach, causing 
great alarm to his faithful companions. He called for 
Brother Benedict of Pirato, who acted as a chaplain and 
secretary to him, and dictated to him a Benediction 
which has been regarded by some as a kind of embryonic 
form of the document known as the " Test amentum 
Sancti Francisci." The Mirror of Perfection gives us 
only a few sentences, probably a mere summary of the 
document actually dictated at the time. It begins : 
" Write how I bless all my brethren, those who are in 
the order and those who are to come, until the end of 
the world." And he ends by bidding them ever love 
one another as he has loved them, and ever love and 

1 Spec. Perf. 87. 
230 



LAST TWO YEARS OF LIFE OF ST. FRANCIS 

serve our Lady Poverty and ever be faithful and subject 
to the prelates and clergy of Holy Mother Church. 
This again is a document of the greatest interest and 
significance, and it belongs clearly to the last stay at 
Siena. 

And so at Siena the decision was taken to carry 
the dying Francis back to Assisi. It was probably the 
wish of Elias, who was anxious to prevent either Siena 
or Perugia from gaining the advantage and glory of 
possessing the dead body of the Saint ; but it was 
assuredly equally the wish of Francis himself, who knew 
well that death was approaching and who desired to 
meet death in the place hallowed for him by so many 
associations, the Portiuncula. The first stage of the 
journey was to Celle de Cortona, 1 and there they 
stayed some days, probably because the invalid could 
not travel. In fact we are told by Celano that at that 
stage dropsy set in, and Francis' digestion became so 
bad that he could eat nothing. But ill as he was, he 
did not lose even then his compassion for the poor, 
and when a poor man came weeping about his poverty 
and his wife's death, he gave him his new cloak to the 
despair of his companions. From Celle the procession 
made its way to Bagni near Nocera, 2 where the dropsy 
became worse. The news of his grave illness reached 
the inhabitants of Assisi, who sent soldiers to guard the 
returning procession and to prevent the Perugians from 

1 I Cel. 105, II Cel. 88, Spec. Perf. 31. 

2 Spec. Perf. 22. 

231 



ST. FRANCIS 



intercepting it. They passed on to Satriano, 1 where 
the escort found it impossible to persuade the inhabi- 
tants to sell them anything. The soldiers were then 
bidden by the Saint to go and beg for alms for the love 
of God, and they then obtained all they required. 

It was probably Midsummer when Francis came back 
to Assisi for the last time. He was taken to the Palace 
of the Bishop of Assisi, 2 and there remained until at his 
own urgent desire he was borne to the Portiuncula. 
The stay at Assisi was of considerable length. We 
gather from the First Life by Celano, that he was only 
a few days at the Portiuncula before he died. " When 
he had rested for a few days in the place which he had 
so greatly desired " is the phrase which Celano uses. 3 
The Mirror of Perfection gives the story of his craving 
for a special kind of fish known as " squalus," while 
he was lying gravely ill in the Palace of the Bishop, 
and adds that it was impossible to obtain the fish at that 
time in Assisi, since it was winter. 4 It would thus 
appear that Francis remained in the Bishop's Palace 
until the latter days of September 1226. Nothing could 
be more characteristic of Francis than the incidents 
recorded of him during his last days in the city of his 
birth. There is, for example, the story of how he gave 
his tunic to one of his brothers, the same one to whom 

1 II Gel. 77. z I Cel. 108. 3 I Cel. 109. 

* Spec. Perf. ill. This phrase is difficult to understand, as the time up 
to October would not be called winter. Possibly the incident occurred during 
some earlier period of illness. 

232 



LAST TWO YEARS OF LIFE OF ST. FRANCIS 

he had earlier given the writing, whom we can thus 
identify as Leo. 1 There is the account given in the 
Mirror of Perfection 2 of how his cheerfulness and 
gaiety of spirit led him to cause the Lauds which he 
had composed to be sung at his bedside by his sorrowing 
companions, to the scandal of Brother Elias, who feared 
lest this light-heartedness would not edify the Assisians 
and their armed guard outside the Palace. Above all, 
his sense of humour did not forsake him. Just as in 
his young manhood he had announced that he was 
going to be a great prince and just as he had while in 
prison in Perugia told his companions : "I shall yet 
be worshipped as a Saint all the world over," so, as he 
lay sick unto death bandaged with sackcloth and 
wearing a garment of sackcloth, he assented to the 
almost playful remark of one of the brothers : " Many 
baldachinos and silken palls shall be placed over this 
little body of thine which now is clothed with sack- 
cloth." 3 

It was a doctor from Arezzo named Buongiovanni, 4 
to whom fell the duty of telling Francis that his end was 
drawing close. Francis insisted on being told the 
truth and the doctor knew that it was futile to attempt 
to conceal it. " Manifestly, father," replied the doctor, 
" according ' to our science of physic, thy sickness is 
incurable, and I believe that either at the end of Septem- 
ber or by the fourth of the nones of October thou wilt 

1 II Cel. 50. s Spec. Perf. 109. 

a Spec. Perf. 121. * Spec. Perf. 122. 

233 



ST. FRANCIS 



die." The answer was no shock to Francis, who in 
ecstasy exclaimed : " Welcome, Sister Death." 

It is, as might be expected, the Mirror of Perfection 
which gives us in a very scattered form the most detailed 
account of the last week of the life of Francis and of his 
triumphant death. The two narratives of Celano are 
briefer, and they have not got that personal touch 
about them which is indicative of the testimony of eye- 
witnesses. The complete narrative can be constructed 
by taking together the Mirror of Perfection and 
Celano. It was probably while he was still at Assisi 
that he sent for his two favourite companions, Leo and 
Angelo, bidding them sing to him of Sister Death. 1 
After the two sorrowing friars had sung to him the 
Canticle of the Sun, he improvised for them a final 
verse in praise of Death : 



" Praised be Thou, my Lord, for our Sister, bodily Death, from whom no man 

living can escape. 

Woe be to them who die in mortal sin. 

Blessed are they who find themselves in Thy most holy will, for the second 
Death shall do them no hurt." 

Toward the end of September, then, Francis began 
his last journey, the descent from Assisi to the Portiun- 
cula. Just as two years before he had taken farewell of 
Alverna and blessed the mountain which had been the 
scene of his spiritual exaltation, so here again he gave 
a farewell blessing to the city of his birth. The fact 
of this last blessing of Assisi as he was carried down the 

1 Spec. Perf. 123. 

234 



LAST TWO YEARS OF LIFE OF ST. FRANCIS 

hill to the plain is sufficiently authenticated by the 
narratives, and it does not very much matter whether 
the form of it contained in the Mirror of Perfection 1 is 
adopted, or whether the much shorter form given by 
the Little Flowers 2 and now to be read over the Porta 
Nuova is accepted. That shorter form runs as follows : 
" Blessed be thou of the Lord, Holy City faithful to 
God, for through thee shall many souls be saved and in 
thee shall dwell many servants of the Most High, and 
from thee shall many be chosen for the Eternal King- 
dom." 

The story of the events of the last few days of the 
life of St. Francis, the Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 
ist, and and 3rd October 1226, have been told and 
retold and are so familiar to all who have made even 
the most elementary study of the Poverello that it 
seems useless to attempt to go afresh over them here. 
The story is a dramatic one, and those who want to 
visualise it for themselves can do so by seeing a perform- 
ance of Mr. Laurence Housman's Sister Death, which 
preserves to a remarkable extent the historical narrative, 
while dramatising the theme. I know few scenes so 
moving as the episode in Sister Death, based upon the 
narrative in the Mirror of Perfection 3 and in Celano, 4 
in which the dying Saint, surrounded by his most 
faithful companions whom he had blessed one by one, 
calls for bread to be brought and causes it to be broken 

1 Spec. Perf. 124. 3 Spec. Perf. 88. 

2 Fourth Refl. on Stigmata. . * II Cel. 217. 

2 3S 



ST. FRANCIS 



into fragments and then with his own hand gives a 
portion to each. It was a bold action on the part of 
Francis to create by this act an unmistakable parallel 
to the Last Supper of his Lord and Master, a parallel 
which both Celano and the writer of the Mirror of 
Perfection were quick to observe ; and it was a bold 
action on the part of Mr. Housman to represent that 
episode on the stage. It can, however, be represented 
with complete reverence and with a restrained emotion 
which is irresistible. 

There are a few episodes in those last few days to 
which I want to refer because they have a bearing upon 
the whole Franciscan story. One of these may be 
assigned either to the time when Francis was in the 
Episcopal Palace at Assisi or to the last days at the 
Portiuncula. I refer to the portrait of the ideal Minister- 
General given both in the Mirror of Perfection 1 and 
in the Second Life by Celano. 2 A brother had asked 
him whether he could point out one in the Order to 
whom the burden of the office of Minister-General 
could safely be committed. Sorrowfully Francis had 
to confess that he knew none such, and he went on to 
paint a picture of the ideal Minister-General, the man 
who would carry on the Order along the lines of 
simplicity and poverty, for which he personally had 
never ceased to strive ever since his own conversion. 
The portrait marked the great gulf between the ideals 
of the founder of the Order and those of Elias and the 

1 Spec. Perf. 80. 2 II Cel. 184-186. 

236 



LAST TWO YEARS OF LIFE OF ST. FRANCIS 

friars associated with him, who were leading the Order 
to the great grief of Francis into a very different direc- 
tion. It is noticeable that this portrait of the Minister- 
General does not occur in Celano's First Life, pre- 
sumably because it might in those early years have been 
too obvious a reflection on Elias. 

Another incident of significance was the blessing 
of the companions. This is a rather difficult matter, 
because there are differences between the story as told 
in four records, the two Lives by Celano, the Mirror of 
Perfection, and the Little Flowers. As regards the 
place and time, it is true that Celano in his First Life 
states that Francis was at Assisi when the Blessing took 
place, while in his Second Life he does not specify 
the place, but the context suggests that it was at the 
Portiuncula. The Mirror of Perfection also does not 
specify the place, but by associating the incident with 
the sharing of a certain dish with Brother Bernard, it 
implies that it took place at the Portiuncula. So too 
does the Fioretti. The place, however, .does not really 
matter. There is more significance in the narrative 
itself. In Celano's First Life, 1 Elias, the Vicar-General, 
was on the Saint's left hand, and Francis deliberately 
blessed him with his right hand, and nothing whatever is 
said as to the others being blessed. Moreover, he gives 
Elias a very definite and unreserved blessing, which is 
recorded at some length. In the Second Life, 2 Celano 
still maintains that Elias received the blessing with the 

i I Gel. 108. a II Gel. 216. 

237 



ST. FRANCIS 



right hand of Francis, but he states that Francis laid his 
right hand on the head of each in turn, beginning with 
Elias. Celano was, however, writing after the fall of 
Elias, and he adds a significant sentence : 

" The blessing, as is written elsewhere, had a special 
meaning, but rather as regards the deprivation of 
office." 

When we come to the account given in the Mirror 
of Perfection, 1 we find that Francis, being blind, first 
puts his right hand by mistake upon the head of Brother 
Giles, and then discovering his mistake he places it on 
the head of Bernard of Quintavalle. Then he utters 
words of the highest praise of Bernard, ending : " Where- 
fore I will and command as much as I can, that whoever 
shall be Minister-General love and honour him as 
myself. Let the Ministers and all the friars of the 
whole order hold him as myself." 

Nothing is said about the blessing of Elias or of 
any of the others. The narrative given in the Little 
Flowers 2 is again different. The brothers are standing 
around the dying Saint, he calls for Bernard, and Bernard 
bids Elias to go to the Saint's right hand to receive 
his blessing. Francis detects that the one on his right 
hand is not Bernard, and so Bernard goes to his left 
hand. Francis then crosses his arms, so as to bless 
Bernard with his right hand and Elias with his left. 

I can imagine some people feeling that all this is 
quite trivial and unimportant detail, and so in a sense 

1 Spec. Perf. 107. Ch. VI. 



LAST TWO YEARS OF LIFE OF ST. FRANCIS 

it is. I have brought it into this narrative, chiefly in 
order to show the kind of problem with which we are 
confronted in Franciscan studies. These differences 
are not entirely accidental. They illustrate how the 
chronicles upon which we depend for our knowledge 
of St. Francis are to use a modern adjective 
tendencious. There are some grounds for seeing in 
Celano's First Life evidence of sympathy with the policy 
of Elias and his followers, and so it is not surprising 
to find that in that document it is Elias and not Bernard 
who secures the blessing. On the other hand, the 
Mirror of Perfection stands for the opposite ideal, that 
of the intimate companions of the Saint, who were 
bitterly opposed to the policy of Elias. For them 
Bernard was naturally a leader of the first importance, 
seeing that he was the first disciple of Francis. Who can 
say what the actual historical fact was, which underlay 
these divergent narratives ? Probably both Elias and 
Bernard received the blessing of Francis, and probably 
he did cross his arms in giving the blessing. The crossed 
arms have become the symbol of the Franciscan Order. 
There is another incident of that last week, the record 
of which we find in the Mirror of Perfection, 1 and not in 
Celano. Saint Clare, who was also lying sick, sent a 
message earnestly desiring to see her friend and master. 
But Francis was no longer able to go to her, and he 
sent to her instead a message of consolation, bidding 
her lay 'aside all grief, because she and her sisters should 

1 Spec. Perf. 108. 
239 



ST. FRANCIS 



before her death behold him and should be greatly 
consoled by that sight of him. The fulfilment of this 
prophecy was when the dead body of the Saint was 
borne from the Portiuncula to Assisi and the procession 
halted on the way at San Damiano, in order that Clare 
and the sisters might take their last farewell of their 
Founder and behold his body marked with the wounds 
of Christ. 

The inclusion of this incident in the Mirror of Per- 
fection is again characteristic, because the intimate 
companions whose tradition is represented in that work 
were in the closest sympathy with Clare in her lifelong 
struggle to preserve the ideals of the primitive Franciscan 
foundation. I said earlier in this lecture that I could 
not enter upon the great subject of the Stigmatisation. 
I cannot, however, leave this account of the last two 
years of the Life of St. Francis without making some 
mention of the public discovery of the Stigmata after his 
death. Celano relates in both his Lives 1 how the 
Stigmata were seen on the body of the dead Francis 
on the day after his death. The earliest narrative of 
the public discovery of that which had before been 
the secret of the few is the circular letter issued by 
Elias, the Vicar-General, on the day following the death 
of St. Francis, in which he announces the death of 
the Saint and at the same time categorically .mentions 
the Stigmata. The letter is still extant in the form of 
a copy addressed to Gregory, the Minister of the Friars 

> I Cel. 112-113, II Gel. 27. 
240 



Plate IX. 




By the courtesy of Sir Joseph Dtiveen. 

The Funeral of St. Francis. 
By Sassetta (1*44). 



ST. FRANCIS 



before her death behold him and should be g] 
consoled by that sight of him. The fulfilment o 
prophecy was when the dead body of the Saini 
borne from the Portiuncula to Assisi and the proc< 
halted on the way at San Damiano, in order that 
and the sisters might take their last farewell of 
Founder and behold his body marked with the w< 
of Christ. 

The inclusion of this incident in the Mirror of 
fection is again characteristic, because the int 
companions whose tradition is represented in that 
were in the closest sympathy with Clare in her lif 
struggle to preserve the ideals of the primitive Franc 
foundation. I said earlier in this lecture that I 
not enter upon the great subject of the Stigmatis: 
I cannot, however, leave this account of the last 
years of the Life of St. Francis without making 
mention of the public discovery of the Stigmata aft 
death. Celano relates in both his Lives 1 hov 
Stigmata were seen on the body of the dead FJ 
on the day after his death. The earliest narrati 
the public discovery of that which had before 
the secret of the few is the circular letter issue 
Elias, the Vicar-General, on the day following the 
of St. Francis, in which he announces the dea 
the Saint and at the same time categorically mer 
the Stigmata. The letter is still extant in the foi 
a copy addressed to Gregory, the Minister of the 3 

i ICel. 112-113, HCel. 27. 

240 



Plate IX. 




7?y f/u' courtesy of Sir Joseph Dureen. 



The Funeral of St. Francis. 
By Sassetta (1444). 



LAST TWO YEARS OF LIFE OF ST. FRANCIS 

Minor in France, and it contains the following 
passage : 

" I announce to you tidings of great joy and a new 
miracle. From the foundation of the world there has 
not been heard such a sign, save in the Son of God, who 
is Christ. Not long before his death our brother and 
father appeared crucified, bearing in his body the 
five wounds which are the marks of Christ, for his 
hands and feet had, as it were, the piercing of nails 
fixed on both sides, keeping the scars and showing the 
blackness of nails. His side appeared pierced and often 
gave forth blood." 

With that quotation we can most suitably leave this 
brief review of the closing years of the wonderful servant 
of God who, to use the phrase of his first chronicler, 
Thomas of Celano, went to meet death with a song. 1 

1 IlCd. 214. 



R 241 



THE REDISCOVERY OF ST. FRANCIS OF 

ASSISI 

BY WALTER SETON, M.A., D.LIT. 



\ 



THE REDISCOVERY OF ST. FRANCIS OF 

ASSISI 1 

THE present year is the seventh centenary of St. Francis 
of Assisi, who died at sunset on October 3, 1226, 
lying naked on the ground in a small cell of wattle 
close to the Portiuncula outside Assisi. Centenaries, 
even seventh centenaries, have become frequent in the 
present day perhaps too frequent. Few centenaries, 
however, can claim anything approaching the im- 
portance, the world-wide character, the breadth and 
variety of appeal, that mark the commemoration of 
the Poverello of Assisi. The most obvious aspect is 
naturally the religious aspect. It is not surprising to 
find the Roman Catholic Church treating the year 
which began on July 31, 1926, as almost equivalent 
in importance to the Holy Year just ended and to 
receive from the Pope an encyclical setting out in the 
most convincing terms the claim of St. Francis upon 
the love and devotion of the faithful. Nor is it unex- 
pected that the Guildhouse in Eccleston Square to 
mention an entirely different form of religious prac- 
tice should have organised a Franciscan celebration 
in October 1926. It is more striking that the Italian 

1 This essay appeared in October 1926 in the Nineteenth Century and After, 
and has since been revised and enlarged. 

245 



ST. FRANCIS 



Government should, notwithstanding the Roman ques- 
tion, have proclaimed October 4 a national holiday, 
and that the head of the Italian Government, H.E. 
Benito Mussolini, should have issued a Message on the 
Franciscan centenary, in which he compares Francis 
with Dante, with Columbus, with Leonardo da Vinci, 
in the following terms : 

" II piti alto genio alia poesia, con Dante ; il pid 
audace navigatore agli oceani, con Colombo ; la mente 
piu profonda alle arti e alia scienza, con Leonardo ; 
ma 1'Italia, con S. Francesco, ha dato anche il piu 
santo dei santi al Cristianesimo e all' umanita." 

A special series of postage stamps has been issued 
in commemoration of the centenary, at least two maga- 
zines devoted specially to the same subject have ap- 
peared for more than a year before the actual year of 
festival begins, and in numerous centres throughout the 
whole world plans are on foot for the worthy remem- 
brance of all that Francis of Assisi means to religion, to 
history, to art. In Assisi the celebrations will be con- 
tinued until October 1927. The reason is not far 
to seek. There are many great saints who have shown 
forth in their lives the beauty of holiness. There are 
innumerable artists who have manifested in their work 
the holiness of beauty. St. Francis has earned a 
supreme position by his intuitive, sometimes almost 
unconscious, combination in the highest degree of the 
beauty of holiness in his character and personality and 
the holiness of beauty in his actions and in his outlook 

246 



THE REDISCOVERY OF ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI 

upon the world around him. He is, as Mussolini has 
indicated, a supreme saint, but he is also a supreme 
artist. 

This article does not aim at giving a panegyric 
upon St. Francis of Assisi. It aims at examining a 
phenomenon, literary, historical, aesthetic and only 
incidentally religious the rediscovery of St. Francis. 

Was there a world-wide celebration of the Francis- 
can centenary in 1826 or in the previous centuries? 
There was, but only in the sense that successive Popes 
called the faithful in the Roman Catholic communion 
in each century to a distinctively religious commemora- 
tion. 1 Nor could it be otherwise, for up to the beginning 
of the nineteenth century St. Francis existed merely 
as a saint of considerable importance in the Catholic 
Church, and as the founder of a great and influential 
order in that communion. In the English Prayer-Book 
calendar prepared in the sixteenth century after the 
breach with Rome place is found for St. Benedict, but 
unfortunately not for St. Francis. When the sixth 
centenary of the death of St. Francis came round there 
were no world-wide celebrations, because the whole 
world outside the Roman Catholic communion thought 
of him, if it thought at all, as a dead Roman Catholic. 
It was inevitable that this should be the case. The 

1 " We would vie in devotion with Our predecessors, who, whenever a 
centenary occurred in connexion with his life, lost no opportunity of com- 
memorating him by their apostolic authority and of decreeing festivities in his 
honour." Encyclical Letter of Pope Pius XI, 1926. (Translation published 
by Burns & Gates and Washbourne.) 

247 



ST. FRANCIS 



writings of St. Francis himself, the chronicles recording 
his life, the exquisite legends which had been woven 
around his story in the fourteenth century, were in 
part lost and in the remaining part quite inaccessible 
to all save the ecclesiastical specialist in the huge tomes 
of the Acta Sanctorum or of Luke Wadding. For 
example, the Second Life of St. Francis, by Thomas of 
Celano, was practically unknown from about 1266, 
when all the early legends were proscribed by the 
General Chapter, until 1806, when its text was edited 
by Rinaldi and published in Rome. So completely 
was this important work forgotten, that doubt was 
thrown upon its existence. To take another example, 
the priceless Fioretti, which have been a joy and an 
inspiration to countless readers of this generation, 
were certainly never quite forgotten, but in the first 
half of the nineteenth century they were known only 
to the learned, who disputed whether there existed a 
Latin original of the Italian text. The first English 
translation of the Little Flowers was, as far as I have 
been able to trace, one by H.E. (Cardinal) Manning, 
issued in 1864. 

It is difficult to define the starting-point of the 
modern movement, which may be called the rediscovery 
of St. Francis by which I mean the movement through 
which St. Francis has become to the world as a whole 
what he was, and indeed more than what he was, to 
Umbria and Italy, of the first half of the thirteenth 
century ; more than what he was to them, because 



THE REDISCOVERY OF ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI 

while the devotion and love of the twentieth century 
cannot well exceed that of the thirteenth, the earlier 
century could not see him from the perspective of 700 
years or realise how great a contribution his life and 
work were to make to humanity. 

I should be inclined to take as the starting-point 
in that movement the work of Karl Hase, professor 
in the University of Jena, who published in 1856 his 
book, Franz von Assist, at that time a notable contribu- 
tion to the knowledge of the subject. An important 
feature of Hase's book was his treatment of the question 
of the Stigmatisation of St. Francis, as he was really 
the first modern writer to embark upon that con- 
troversial subject. More important, however, than the 
intrinsic value of Hase's work was the fact that its trans- 
lation into French by M. Charles Berthoud attracted 
the attention of the great French critic Renan, who 
was himself a devoted admirer of St. Francis. Taking 
Hase's work as a text, Renan included in his Nouvelles 
Etudes d'Histoire Re/igieuse (Paris, 1884) a study 
entitled Francois d'Assise, which is a classic in Fran- 
ciscan literature. The amazing insight of Renan is 
shown by the fact that while the materials for our 
knowledge of St. Francis have been incalculably 
increased since 1884, there is little in his study which 
would need rewriting to-day, except, of course, from the 
standpoint of many of us, his rather crude explanation 
of the Stigmatisation as the result of fraud on the part 
of the Vicar-General Elias. No one has ever written 

249 



ST. FRANCIS 



more beautifully or with keener appreciation about 
St. Francis, though his tone is that of the patron, not 
that of the client. Some of his sayings about the saint 
have become household words. I will quote just a few 
to illustrate his outlook : * On peut dire que depuis 
Je*sus Franyois d'Assise a ete le seul parfait Chretien ' 
an aphorism which sums up in a few words the theme 
to which a volume of great length, De Conformitate, 
was devoted by Bartholomew of Pisa. * Ce qui dis- 
tingue Francois d'Assise en son siecle, et dans tous les 
siecles, c'est sa complete originalite.' Speaking of 
the Canticle of the Sun, Renan says : ' Le plus beau 
morceau de po&ie religieuse depuis les Evangiles, 
1' expression la plus complete du sentiment religieux 
moderne.' Again, Renan summarises his inspiration 
of art in these words : ' Ce sordide mendiant fut le 
pere de Fart italien. Cimabue et Giotto trouverent 
leur genie en s'efforyant de peindre sa legende sur 
son tombeau.' Renan estimates thus the influence of 
the Franciscan movement : * Apres le christianisme, le 
mouvement franciscain est la plus grande reuvre popu- 
laire dont 1'histoire se souvienne.' Little wonder is 
it that a Capuchin Franciscan, to Renan's great satis- 
faction, said of the great liberal thinker : ' II a ecrit 
sur Je*sus autrement qu'on ne doit, mais il a bien parle 
de Saint Fran9ois. Saint Franois le sauvera 1 * 

Renan was far too acute a critic to be led into the 
mistake, which many other liberal and modernist 
critics since his time have made, of failing to recognise 

250 



THE REDISCOVERY OF ST. FRANCIS OF ASSIST 

Francis as the humble, obedient, devout son of the 
Roman Catholic Church an uncritical attitude of 
mind which has quite rightly been condemned by the 
Holy Father in his recent encyclical. 1 Renan had the 
ear of France, and indeed of the whole cultivated world, 
and so it was natural that his treatment of the life-story 
of St. Francis should have an immense influence in 
starting the examination on modern lines of the half- 
forgotten documents of the thirteenth and fourteenth 
centuries. 

When speaking of the impetus given in France by 
Renan to the study of the Franciscan story it would 
not be right to pass over without mention three of 
the pioneers of the same study in Great Britain. The 
versatile pen of Mrs. Oliphant had as early as 1868 been 
devoted to a life of St. Francis, which had at any rate 
the merit of awakening wider interest in this country ; 
while about twenty years earlier, in 1847, F. W. Faber 
had produced a Life of St. Francis of Assist, translated 
from the French of C. Chalippe. A more important 
name than that of either Mrs. Oliphant or Faber is 
that of Ruskin, who took the keenest interest in 

1 " How foolish, they are, and how little they know the saint of Assisi, who 
for the purpose of their own errors invent a Francis an incredible Francis 
who is impatient of the authority of the Church, who cares nothing for the 
teaching of our faith, who is the herald of that false freedom which has been 
so much vaunted since the beginning of the present century, and is the cause 
of such unrest in Church and State ! Let him, the herald of the great King, 
teach Catholics and others by his own example how close was his attachment 
to the hierarchy of the Church and to the doctrine of Christ." Encyclical 
Letter of Pope Pius XI, 1926. 

251 



ST. FRANCIS 



St. Francis, so much so that he appears even to have 
considered the possibility of joining the Roman Catholic 
communion in order to be able to become a member of 
the third order of St. Francis. In Deucalion he wrote 
of himself as a brother of the third order, and he stayed 
for a long time at Assisi. Thus Ruskin had a part, and 
no unimportant part, in the rediscovery of St. Francis. 
The outstanding name, however, in the rediscovery 
of St. Francis is, of course, that of Professor Paul 
Sabatier, whose interest in Franciscan studies was largely 
inspired by Renan. The publication by Sabatier in 
1 894 of the first edition of his Vie de S. Francois d'Asslse 
a book which was destined to go into forty-five 
editions and to be translated into many languages 
was an epoch in Franciscan studies. Countless thou- 
sands of readers have derived from the writings of 
Sabatier, and especially from his great Life, their first 
impulse towards interest in the saint, which has fre- 
quently developed into a complete surrender to his 
fascination and charm. It would be idle to deny that 
there has not been unanimity on the subject of the 
work of Sabatier, either as regards his whole outlook 
towards St. Francis or as regards some of the critical 
positions which he had adopted as a result of his 
investigations. Sabatier's interpretation of the char- 
acter and personality of Francis has sometimes not been 
one which can be accepted unreservedly by those 
whose outlook is more distinctly conservative and 
Catholic, but there is insufficient justification for the 

252 



THE REDISCOVERY OF ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI 

attitude of some, who overlook on account of theo- 
logical bias the immense services rendered to Franciscan 
studies by the great Frenchman. Sabatier has written 
with exquisite beauty of style and thought about 
the Poverello of Assisi, and about the places which have 
become holy through their association with him. But 
Sabatier's strength has not lain solely in his command 
of literary style, or even in his aesthetic appreciation of 
St. Francis. For forty years he has laboured inces- 
santly in the field of his choice, examining for himself 
the actual manuscripts, bringing to light documents of 
vital importance and previously unknown, developing 
theories as to the inter-relation of the various sources, 
with which many have disagreed but which none can 
venture to disregard. 

Starting, then, from the publication of Sabatier's 
Tie de S. Franfois, the whole movement for the accurate 
and scientific study of the Franciscan story has gathered 
momentum and has spread from one country to another. 
It is of course impossible to attempt here to record the 
detailed advances which have been made since 1890. 
The most that can be done is to point to some of the 
landmarks and to mention some of the leading investi- 
gators. The document known as the Legend of the 
Three Companions had been for a long time known to 
those who were investigating the sources, though it was 
all but unknown to any wider circle. In his search for 
those portions of the Legend of the saint which were 
believed to be lost, Sabatier made the discovery in 

253 



ST. FRANCIS 



separate form of the document, now comparatively 
well known, entitled the Mirror of Perfection. He 
announced that this work was written as. early as 1227 
by Brother Leo, one of the most intimate companions 
of St. Francis, and thus that it was actually earlier in 
date of composition than the First Life by Thomas 
of Celano. The large majority of Franciscan students 
have felt unable to accept so early a date, and have 
believed that the Mirror is a work of the fourteenth 
century and that the date of the manuscript used 
by Sabatier has been misunderstood ; but Sabatier 
still maintains that date. It must not, however, 
be forgotten that it was he who discovered and 
published for the first time this highly important 
document, which now, thirty years later, is still a sub- 
ject of acute controversy and much division of opinion. 
Sabatier's edition of the Mirror oj Perfection was the 
first volume in a series of Franciscan texts, Collection 
de Documents pour I'histoire reltgieuse et litteraire du 
Moyen Age, and he followed up the Mirror of Per- 
fection with other documents of vital interest to the 
Franciscan student, such as the Actus Beati Francisci, 
published in 1902. It must not be supposed for a 
moment that activity in Franciscan study was even at 
that stage confined to Sabatier and his collaborators, 
or to France. As early as 1885 the College of St. Bona- 
venture at Quaracchi a house of the Order of Friars 
Minor specially devoted to theological and historical 
research had begun the issue of the valuable series 

254 



THE REDISCOVERY OF ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI 

known as Analecta Franciscana, while in 1906 Pere 
E. d'Alencon gave to the world a much-needed critical 
edition of the two Lives of St. Francis and the Tractate 
on Miracles by Thomas of Celano, a work now unfor- 
tunately out of print, and until this year the only 
trustworthy edition of those indispensable sources. 
Thus by the end of the nineteenth century widespread 
interest had been excited among historical writers 
both within and without the Order of St. Francis, 
among writers of the most rigid orthodoxy and those of 
the most liberal tendencies, and the study of St. Francis, 
his writings and his life, which had in earlier generations 
been the province of relatively few, became a field of 
research, and it may be added an arena of controversy, 
for some of the most acute medievalists in all countries. 
In Great Britain the outstanding worker has been, and 
still is, Mr. A. G. Little, who has laboured unceasingly 
at the investigation of the sources for the history of 
St. Francis, and who among many notable contribu- 
tions to Franciscan studies has given us an edition of 
Thomas of Eccleston's Coming of the Friars to Britain. 
Mr. Little has also made special investigations of the 
Friars Minor in this country, and especially at Oxford. 
As might well be expected, the problems of Fran- 
ciscan sources have had a remarkable fascination for 
German scholars, and the German universities have 
poured out a mass of acute and valuable work dealing 
with various aspects of the whole subject. Among these 
very numerous works two seem to me of outstanding 

255 



ST. FRANCIS 



importance and worth. One is Boehmer's Analekten 
zur Geschichte des Franciscus von Assist* which provides 
a critical edition of the works to be attributed to the 
pen of the saint. The other is Walter Goetz's Die 
Quellen zur Geschichte des hi. Franz von Assist? This 
latter work is one of the greatest value on account of 
its accurate scholarship and moderation of view, and 
at the time when it was written it was much the most 
useful statement of the findings of Franciscan research. 
If it could be brought up to date in the light of later 
discoveries and translated into English, it would be of 
undoubted value to British historical students. 

It is not the purpose of this article to act as a kind of 
guide to the study of St. Francis, but rather to indicate 
some of the main features of the phenomenon which I 
have described as the rediscovery of St. Francis. The 
point which I want to establish is that the last seventy- 
five years, and especially the last half-century, have 
been remarkable for the creation of what may fairly 
be called a fresh department or province in historical 
research, which has engaged the attention of a by no 
means negligible group of workers in a number of 
countries, which has resulted in the publication of a 
mass of books and articles, and which has produced the 
foundation of numerous societies for the special study 
of the subject and of many journals devoted exclusively 
to the publication of the result achieved by these re- 
searches. So wide has the subject become that, while 

1 Tubingen, 1904. a Gotha, 1904. 

256 



THE REDISCOVERY OF ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI 

a few generations ago, it would have been a possible 
form of specialism to take up Franciscan studies as a 
whole, it is no longer feasible for any one worker to 
attempt to keep pace with the study of the whole sub- 
ject, and it has become necessary for specialism to take 
place within the subject itself. 

Side by side with this scientific study of Franciscan 
sources and history has gone the constantly increasing 
popularisation of the story of St. Francis. Some 
would doubtless maintain that the whole movement is 
merely one phase of the outburst of interest in medieva- 
lism. That is no doubt true as far as it goes, but it is 
far from being the whole truth. St. Francis makes an 
appeal of amazing freshness to the purely religious 
instinct and to the aesthetic instinct. There has been 
an unmistakable and regrettable tendency, especially 
on the part of those who have made a relatively super- 
ficial study of the actual facts of the life and writings 
of the saint, to go one step further than the safe and 
legitimate step of discovering that Francis of Assisi has 
a message for all time and for every generation. That 
step is to find in him just that message to this generation 
which fits in best with their own outlook on life. Thus 
those who stand for a Socialistic theory of life have not 
hesitated to claim St. Francis as an exponent of Socialism, 
while those who crave for extreme simplicity in religion 
have imagined St. Francis as a kind of predecessor of 
the leaders of the Reformation, or as a man whose 
theology bordered on Pantheism, 
s 257 



ST. FRANCIS 



Here, again, the words of the recent Papal Ency- 
clical may appropriately be quoted to traverse this 
unscientific and unbalanced view : 'The herald of the 
great King,' writes Pius XL, . * did not come to make 
men doting lovers of flowers, birds, lambs, fishes or 
hares ; . he came to fashion them after the Gospel 
pattern, and to make them lovers of the cross.' 

Such vagaries of interpretation are only to be ex- 
pected when the foundation of sound and accurate 
study is absent. One of the most successful recent 
attempts to translate the message of St. Francis into the 
language of the twentieth century is Prebendary 
Mackay's The Message of Francis of Assisi, which has 
paid due regard to the actual sources, and consequently 
has not distorted the figure of the saint. 

It is clear that it is impossible to account for this 
ever-widening and deepening interest in St. Francis 
and his story by the simple explanation that he was a 
great saint. There have been many other great saints, 
but it would be hard to point to one who has after a 
period of several centuries come into his own so com- 
pletely as Francis. There are scholars who devote 
themselves to the study of Benedictine monachism or 
of the Dominican Order, but their work has not up to 
the present made the appeal either to the student of 
medievalism on the one hand, or to the average person 
of cultivated and intelligent tastes on the other, that is 
made by the work, either exact or popular, of those 
who are devoting themselves to the Franciscan story. 

258 



THE REDISCOVERY OF ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI 

It would be difficult to mention a cult in any way com- 
parable to . that of St. Francis except perhaps that of 
St. Teresa. 

There are other aspects of the phenomenon of the 
rediscovery of St. Francis. One of these is the relation 
of Franciscanism, to learning, especially to theology and 
to philosophy. I do not suggest that it is a modern 
phase that the Franciscan Order should .have become 
a learned order. There were signs of a trend in that 
direction even in the time of the founder, and much 
more distinctly in the generation following his death. 
St. Bonaventure, who lived in the generation after 
St. Francis, and whose influence upon the development 
of the Order can scarcely be sufficiently emphasised, 
acknowledged that he found in the life of St. Francis 
a likeness to the origins of Christianity, in that the 
Church began from uneducated fishermen and later 
included the most famous teachers. It is the investi- 
gation of this somewhat extraordinary development 
which has been and still is another phase of the redis- 
covery of St. Francis. Increasing attention is being 
devoted to the philosophical and theological writings 
of leading Franciscans, of St. Bonaventure, of Duns 
Scotus, of Archbishop Peckham, of Alexander of Hales, 
and especially of Roger Bacon. It has been recognised 
as impossible to deal thoroughly with the philosophical 
conceptions of the Middle Ages without taking into 
account the work not so much of Francis himself as 
of some of the chief sons of Francis. 

259 



ST. FRANCIS 



Another aspect which must be mentioned is the 
impact of one outstanding episode in the story of 
St. Francis upon psychology. I refer, of course, to 
the difficult problem of the Stigmatisation. This is not 
the place for a discussion of that question, but it has a 
distinct bearing upon the subject of this article. Since 
the time of Hase and Renan the attention of psycholo- 
gists and of medical men has been given to the problem 
raised by the narratives of the Stigmatisation on Mount 
Alverna in September 1224, and, though it must be 
admitted that there are wide differences of opinion 
as to the manner and the nature of that occurrence, 
there has been a considerable measure of agreement 
that no properly authenticated case of Stigmatisation 
occurred before the time of St. Francis, but that there 
have been since his time a number of cases which 
have been the subject of medical examination. The 
whole subject of the Stigmatisation of St. Francis has 
attracted increasing attention during the past twenty- 
five years, and it would be safe to assert that the last 
word has not yet been spoken upon it, either from the 
historical standpoint or from the psychological stand- 
point. 

The question of the Stigmatisation brings us to 
yet another aspect of the rediscovery of St. Francis. 
A characteristic book appeared in 1924, namely, 
P. Vittorino Facchinetti's Le Stimmate di S. Francesco 
d' Assist. After dealing with the testimony of history 
and the testimony of science, the author devotes a 

260 



THE REDISCOVERY OF ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI 

section to the homage of literature and art to the Stig- 
matisation, and there follows a series of reproductions 
of artistic masterpieces, carefully selected so as to illus- 
trate the development of the Stigmatisation story in 
art throughout the intervening centuries. This is 
symptomatic of the interest taken in the influence of 
St. Francis upon art an influence which has by no 
means ceased to operate, but which is still leading to 
the publication in popular form of some of the greatest 
works of art of the painters inspired by the Poverello. 
For example,. the Giotto frescoes in the Upper Church 
of San Francesco have become among the best known 
of mediseval pictures. 

Is the rediscovery of St. Francis complete ? Has 
the present age secured, as the result of the patient 
labours of the succession of investigators from Renan 
until to-day, a complete picture of the saint, a sure 
solution of the problem of the Franciscan sources ? The 
most that could be claimed is that some of the necessary 
materials for an investigation of the subject have been 
collected. Apart from many subsidiary problems, 
there remains still one main problem to be solved. 
That problem is the exact relationship between certain 
primary documents the Second Life of St. Francis by 
Thomas of Celano, the Mirror of Perfection, the 
Legend oj the Three Companions, the Actus Beati 
Francisci et Sociorum ejus, and the various compilations 
of admittedly later date. I believe that the problem 
might be solved by a group of competent medievalists 

261 



ST. FRANCIS 



not committed to any solution in advance, but com- 
pletely open-minded assembling all the relevant docu- 
ments and making a detailed examination of them, 
episode by episode, a minute textual examination as 
well as an examination of their contents. It is only 
in that way that a final decision can be reached as to 
whether, for example, Thomas of Celano made use 
for his Second Life of both the Mirror of Perfection and 
the Legend of the Three Companions, or whether all three 
are derived from some older common source. As in 
so many branches of study, the difficulty has been, and 
still is, that the chief investigators have yielded to the 
temptation of first framing a theory of the mutual 
relationship of the chief documents and then finding 
in the documents evidence in support of their theory. 1 

For nearly six centuries there was cherished a 
pious belief that St. Francis was standing erect in his 
tomb alive and ready to issue forth therefrom to 
preach as before to the faithful. There was also no 
small element of doubt whether the reputed place of 
burial did actually contain the mortal remains of 
Francis. In 1818 permission was given by Pope Pius 
VII. to the Conventual Franciscans to excavate beneath 
the high altar in San Francesco, and their research was 
rewarded by the discovery of the stone coffin containing 

1 Since writing this paragraph, I have had the advantage as Editor of 
this volume of reading Professor Burkitt's article ; and I should like to express 
my entire agreement with the results reached by him, and my conviction as 
to the importance of the Perugia and Rome MSS. in any investigation of this 
complicated problem. 

262 



THE REDISCOVERY OF ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI 

a skeleton which was authoritatively declared to be 
that of the saint. The beautiful old tradition was of 
course shattered by the picks and shovels of the friars, 
but the story is not without an inward and spiritual 
significance. From the tomb thus opened in 1818 
St. Francis has verily issued forth, and has become as 
real a figure to the men and women of the nineteenth 
and twentieth centuries as he was to his fellow-country- 
men of the thirteenth century. His rediscovery has 
followed upon that exposure of his mortal remains, and 
he has come forth to preach not only to the Italians, 
but to the whole world. The public opinion of the 
civilised world recognises to-day in Francis of Assisi, 
to use the phrase of Benito Mussolini, * il piu santo 
fra gli Italiani ed il piu Italiano fra i santi.' 



263 



ST. FRANCIS IN ROME 

BY MRS. ARTHUR STRONG, LL.D., LITT.D., F.S.A. 



ST. FRANCIS IN ROME 

THE celebration this year of the 7ooth anniversary 
of the death of St. Francis (October 3-4, 1226 1926) 
carries in a very special manner the thoughts of his 
innumerable devotees to the exquisite sites associated 
with his name : to the hill-town of Assisi, seated like 
a queen above the valley of Spoleto, of which the 
Saint himself was wont to say, " Nulla io vidi piu 
giocondo della mia valle Spoletana " ; to the fragrant 
woods of Greccio with their rustic hermitages, and to the 
rugged steeps crowned by the sasso crudo of la Verna. 
The country-side of central Italy is rich in memories of 
the Saint ; a veritable network of legendary tales 
spreads over it, radiating from Assisi, his birthplace and 
special sanctuary. 

Yet the very power of the association with Assisi 
does injustice to the Saint, and detracts from the sig- 
nificance of his mission. Undoubtedly, the presence 
of that rare personality, the inexhaustible fire of his 
charity, has endowed this region in particular, as to some 
degree the whole face of our human dwelling-place, 
with a glow of tender light ; undeniably also, his own 
heart was drawn with peculiar love to the town which 
was alike the birthplace of his physical and of his 

267 



ST. FRANCIS 



spiritual life, and it was to Assisi that, as his last hour 
drew near, he desired to be borne> thence to pass into 
life eternal. But St. Francis was no mere local saint, 
not even a saint confined to a locality and transcending 
it by virtue of his personality and divine power. His 
vocation was one which linked him with the movement 
of his age, placed him historically at its very centre, 
made him, in a word, derive, not from Assisi, but 
from Rome. Whatever the love he bore to his birth- 
place, or the associations with the little towns of the 
Sabina and the Casentino, the stronghold of his spirit 
was the city which, along with her authority, gave 
vitality and direction to the impulses stirring within 
him. 

The connection of St. Francis with Rome has 
naturally not been ignored by his numerous biographers. 
Catholic and non-Catholic alike are unanimous in 
admitting his unswerving loyalty to Rome as seat of the 
Church's authority, while of recent years the dealings 
of the Holy See with St. Francis have been interpreted 
by non-Catholics in a more generous spirit than formerly. 
But the tendency persists to consider Rome only in her 
practical relation to the problems of his life, as a sort 
of bureau to which he came for permissions and official 
seals. Her whole-hearted response to his aspirations, 
her quickness to recognise and support her ardent 
servitor, are scarcely appreciated to the full, nor has the 
influence of the " City of the Soul " been sufficiently 
taken into account in the history of his spiritual develop- 

268 



ST. FRANCIS IN ROME 



ment. Yet it was in Rome that he found the answer 
to his earliest difficulties, that his noblest intuitions 
deepened, that he received premonition of the final 
raptures. One might almost say that like other great 
Italians of every age, like Virgil who was a Mantuan, 
like Dante and Michelangelo who were Tuscans, or 
Raphael who was an Umbrian, so Francis only found the 
full fruition of his genius in the fertilising atmosphere of ( 
the TJrbs. In Rome also he formed numerous friend- 
ships that accompanied him through life, one of which, 
with the noble matron Giacoma di Settesoli, brought 
him joy and consolation in his last hours, renewing 
at that supreme moment his links with the Eternal 
City. It is the object of this paper to try to restore 
the blurred outline of the Saint's Roman experiences. 
These need to be studied afresh, with the help of the 
documents as well as in the light of recent discoveries. 
Fine spade-work has already been accomplished by a 
number of foreign scholars : foremost among them are 
the learned Franciscans, Pere Edouard d'Alen9on 
(Capuchin), Fr. Livario Oliger (O.F.M.), Fr. Hilarin 
Felder (Capuchin), Fr. Beda Kleinschmidt (O.F.M.) 
and others. Of great importance also are the recent 
contributions of various distinguished Italians : Dr. 
Cecchelli, Prof. A. Munoz, Piero Misciattelli, and above 
all the present Minister of Public Instruction, His Exc. 
Pietor Fedele, whose long promised book on St. Francis 
and Rome has only been delayed, we believe, by the 
arduous duties of his office. 

269 



ST. FRANCIS 



I 

The recorded visits of the Saint to Rome are five 
in number, 1 from his first early pilgrimage in search of 
guidance, to the mature season when his Order is fully 

I accepted and finally organised, and he is free to abandon 
himself to mystic and solitary communion with the 

i divine. 

{ The first visit was in 1 206. Vacillating movements 
of repentance for an ill-spent youth and a strongly 
kindled desire to enter, he knew not how, into the service 

a 

of Christ, were at work within him. At Spoleto he had 

heard a voice holding him back from joining the 

expedition against Markwald, but the meaning of the 

order given him in a dream, to realise in a spiritual 

sense his haunting craving for success by arms, was not 

yet clear. 2 Like many a troubled soul before and after 

him, he undertook a pilgrimage ad limina to pray for the 

solution of his difficulties. Illumination came to him 

in a flash. At the Tomb of the Apostle a sudden 

gesture of renunciation, a first embrace of his Lady 

| Poverty, took place with all the fervour, and, as it seems 

I to our colder times and temperament, with all the 

1 exaggeration characteristic of the Saint. 3 Flinging all 

| the money he had with him among the pilgrims' 

| offerings, he went out penniless from the church and 

1 I omit supposed visits in 1212 and 1219 for which I can find no definite 
evidence, though Francis very probably came to Rome seven times and even 
oftener. 

2 I Celano 4. 3 II Celano 8. 

270 



ST. FRANCIS IN ROME 

took his place among the beggars on the steps. He 
carried this symbolic renunciation so far as to exchange 
the clothes he wore for those of a fellow-beggar. Even 
the contemporary biographer who narrates the action 
inclines to explain it away and rationalise it, stating that 
the gift of all his money was actuated by disgust at the 
paucity of the offerings of others, and that he then 
joined the company of the beggars to provide for his 
homeward journey. The explanation is less intelligible 
than the deed. The act is in keeping with all we know 
of the Saint's personality, on a par with the later incident 
of the kiss to the leper or the visit to the leper-house. 
It is an act of folly if you will, but it is the " folly of 
the Cross," that sudden, violent readjustment of values 
which sets at naught all that the world esteems, obliterates 
all human respect, and shakes the very foundations of 
ordered social life. In the long retrospect of seven 
centuries, the scene in the old atrium of St. Peter stands 
out as typical of the whole Franciscan movement, of the 
intransigeance needed to restore the dying life of the 
spirit, a remedy, extreme but salutary, to the smothering 
prosperity and material concerns of the age, a supreme 
return to sanity in a world of craze-bewildered human 
beings. 

On the morrow, it may be on the day itself the 
exact moment is unimportant, Francis resumed his 
own clothing, and, whether with money bestowed on 
him as he begged or with supplies more normally 
obtained, and certainly accessible to the son of a rich 

271 



ST. FRANCIS 



cloth merchant, returned to his native town, there to 
re-enact the scene of total renunciation, no longer as 
a stranger and a pilgrim in the Eternal City, but as 
a conspicuous personage in his small familiar circle, 
breaking from the petty restraints and ties of his past 
in the full face of his father's bitter indignation and in 
presence of the citizens and of the Bishop of Assisi. 
The dramatic scene in the public Piazza of the little 
town is well known ; as Francis flings back to an 
indignant father the money and the clothes he owes to 
him, stripping himself even to the hair-shirt which was 
his own, it is the Bishop who receives him to his heart 
and covers his nakedness in the folds of his cloak 
indicating by this sacramental gesture that the Church 
now holds him peculiarly her own. The prologue 
to the missionary life thus ends, as it began, on the 
leitmotif of Rome. 

II 

Another three years passed before Francis found 
himself once more in the Eternal City. At Assisi in the 
little church of St. Damian, the Crucifix had spoken to 
him in terms less ambiguous than those of the voice 
heard at Spoleto. But the order given him to rebuild 
Christ's church 1 had been interpreted by him materially 
and locally, applying the labour of his hands and the 
alms of his friends to reconstruct Assisi 's sacred edifices. 

1 Vocans enim ipsum ex nomine : Francisce, inquit, vade, repara domum 
meam. II Celano 10. 

272 



Plate X. 




Girandon Photo. 



Musee Condd, Chantilly. 



ST. FRANCIS 



cloth merchant, returned to his native town, there to 
re-enact the scene of total renunciation, no longer as 
a stranger and a pilgrim in the Eternal City, but as 
a conspicuous personage in his small familiar circle, 
breaking from the petty restraints and ties of his past 
in the full face of his father's bitter indignation and in 
presence of the citizens and of the Bishop of Assisi. 
The dramatic scene in the public Piazza of the little 
town is well known ; as Francis flings back to an 
indignant father the money and the clothes he owes to 
him, stripping himself even to the hair-shirt which was 
his own, it is the Bishop who receives him to his heart 
and covers his nakedness in the folds of his cloak 
indicating by this sacramental gesture that the Church 
now holds him peculiarly her own. The prologue 
to the missionary life thus ends, as it began, on the 
leitmotif of Rome. 

II 

Another three years passed before Francis found 
himself once more in the Eternal City. At Assisi in the 
little church of St. Damian, the Crucifix had spoken to 
him in terms less ambiguous than those of the voice 
heard at Spoleto. But the order given him to rebuild 
Christ's church 1 had been interpreted by him materially 
and locally, applying the labour of his hands and the 
alms of his friends to reconstruct Assisi 's sacred edifices. 

1 Vocans enim ipsum ex nomine : Francisce, inquit, vade, re-para domum 
meam. II Celano 10. 

272 



Plate X 




Gimndon Photo. 



Mttsdc Cnni/c. Chantilly. 



ST. FRANCIS IN ROME 



What was wanted of him was soon to, be made clear. 
As followers gathered round him and the cult of poverty 
grew, he turned his footsteps again to Rome, in quest 
this time of approval for his Order and sanction for his 
Rule, seeking from the authority of the Church support 
for his own. And though he scarcely realised it as he 
set out, he was to find definite guidance for his missionary 
work. 

This second visit, foreshadowed in the scene at 
Assisi, knits him to the very heart of Rome. Through 
the friendly offices of Bishop Guido and the " goodwill 
and charity " of Cardinal John of St. Paul * he obtained 
the interview he sought with Pope Innocent III, who 
in a vision, capping as it were the Saint's own earlier 
dream of the lofty tree which he bent to his wish, saw the 
Church, imaged as St. John Lateran omnium urbis ft 
orbls ecclestarum mater et caput supported and upheld 
by this unpretentious leader of a still insignificant 
movement. In the Encyclical Rite expiatis of April 
3oth of this year, His Holiness Pope Pius XI compares 
Francis to him " who in his lifetime repaired the house 
again and in his days fortified the temple." 2 Innocent 
likewise recognised in Francis the man born of the needs 
of the age, the champion of the Church in her hour of 
peril. But the times were difficult ; everywhere move- 
ments of reform were tending to break into heresy ; 

1 Of the family of the Colonna. He was first Cardinal-Priest of Santa Prisca, 
and afterwards Cardinal-Bishop of Sabina. Cristofori, St. d. Cardinali, i, p. 33. 

2 Ecclesiasticus, 1, I. 

T 273 



ST. FRANCIS 



professed apostles of evangelical poverty, like the 
curious sect of the Poor Catholics, were giving trouble ; 
and Innocent had hesitated, it is said, before admitting 
into his presence one who might prove to be only 
another Peter Valdes. 1 But the intuition of his master- 
mind was unerring and his recognition of the Saint 
swift and generous. The Pope's confidence was no 
doubt enhanced by the bearing of the man before him : 
no false humility or cowardice, says Dante, weighed 
down the son of Bernadone as he approached the 
Pontiff : 

" Ma regalmente sua dura intenzione 
ad Innocenzio aperse, e da lui ebbe 
primo sigillo a sua religione." 

Paradiso, xi, 9I-93- 2 

For Francis it was an essential moment in the Life 
of the Spirit. He had not only obtained the desired 
sanctions and permissions ; but in the presence of the 
Vicar of Christ that truth had become clear to him 
which before he could but divine as in a glass darkly. 
All his doubts were now resolved as to the interpretation 
to be put upon the words : " Francis, go and repair My 

1 A vivid account of the spiritual troubles of the period, and of the possible 
perplexities of Pope Innocent, is given by M. Beaufreton, the latest Catholic 
biographer of the Saint : Saint Franfois d? Assist, Paris (1926), p. 130 ff. See 
also Mgr. H. Mann, Lives of the Popes, vols. xi, xii (Innocent III), passim, 

* Piero Misciattelli (Illustrazione Italiana, special St. Francis number, 
p. 34) points out that Dante is here anticipating Petrarch's saying that a man is 
ennobled, not by his birth, but by his life. Hagiography has invested St. Francis 
with patents of nobility from which, as Beaufreton wittily remarks, no seal is 
absent save that of autheaticity. It is at this kind of pious snobbery that C. G. 
Coulton (Medieval Village, p. 526) not unjustly levels the shafts of his irony. 

274 



ST. FRANCIS IN ROME 



Church." The Crucifix had spoken in Assisi, but the 
full meaning of the words had been disclosed in Rome. 

A later story, in palliation of the Pope's supposed 
reluctance to see Francis and his companions, was told 
by Innocent's nephew, Ricardo Annibaldi, Cardinal- 
Deacon of S. Angelo, 1 to Jerome of Ascoli, from whom 
it passed into the Legenda of St. Bonaventura. Accord- 
ing to this story, a first rebuff had been administered 
by Innocent to Francis, who in his zeal had rushed to 
the Lateran immediately on arrival, eluded the vigilance 
of the guards, and discovering the Pope walking up 
and down in the place called the speculum, had thrown 
himself at his feet, only to be ungraciously repulsed. 
In fact, according to a passage in Matthew of Paris, 2 
who gives the story in a somewhat different form, the 
great Pope was so far startled out of his dignity by the 
unusual apparition as to bid Francis " go and roll 
himself in the mire with the pigs." 

The anecdote does not seem to have found much 
favour with the biographers previous to St. Bonaventura, 
but it raises two points of great topographical interest. 
In the first place it represents the Pope as walking in the 
speculum of the Lateran, probably the old observatory 
or " spying-place " where Silvester II had studied the 
stars in order to pierce the mysteries of the approaching 
millennium, an occupation which caused the studious 
Pontiff to be suspected of magical practices. The story 

1 I.e. S. Angelo in Pescheria, Cristofori, Storia del Cardinali, 1888, i, p. 249. 

2 On the small value of this author, see Sabatier, p. 431 ; cf. Mann, Popes, 
ii, p. 57, n. 2. 

275 



ST. FRANCIS 



goes on to tell how on the morrow, Pope Innocent, 
awakening in great agitation from the Dream in which 
the ragged beggar whom he had repulsed was revealed 
as the saviour of the Church, sent messengers in hot 
haste to fetch him back, and how the messengers 
discovered Francis living in the hospice of S. Antonio 
near the Lateran (juxta Lateranum). The S. Antonio 
in question was long identified with the hospice of that 
name opposite St. Mary Major's, in the modern Via 
Carlo Alberto. But apart from the fact that this S. 
Antonio cannot possibly be described as juxta Lateranum, 
being about a mile off, an inscription on its fine 
Romanesque porch shows that it was only erected some 
thirty years after the death of Francis, with moneys left 
for the purpose by Cardinal Pietro Capocci, who died 
in 1259. The question has been recently discussed by 
Father Livario Oliger. 1 He comes to the conclusion, 
on information partly provided by Professor Huelsen, 
that the S. Antonio where Francis stayed is to be 
identified with a tiny foundation of that name situated 
near SS. Pietro and Marcellino and the aqueduct of 
Claudius, which is mentioned in a fourteenth century 
list of Roman churches. 2 Still more recently, the 
brilliant young Roman archaeologist, Dr. Cecchelli, 

1 In a collection of monographs published in honour of the sixteenth 
centenary of the dedication of the Lateran (Nel XVI Centenario dalla 
Dedicazione della Arcibasilica Lateranense del S.S. Salvatore, Rome, 1924), p. 44. 
In his most important paper Fr. Oliger gives full references to the literature. 

2 G. Falco: "II Catalogo di Torino, etc." in Arcbiv. della R. Soc. Rom. 
di Storia Patria, xxxii, 1909, pp. 411 ff. 

276 



ST. FRANCIS IN ROME 



in a special St. Francis number of the Illustrazlone 
Italiana? has shown reason for identifying the hostelry 
where Francis lodged with the old hospice of the Lateran, 
the chapel of which " a perfect jewel of thirteenth 
century architecture," says Cecchelli still exists, em- 
bedded in the later hospital. This would really be 
juxta Lateranum, and one hopes that Dr. Cecchelli will 
soon publish his thesis in a fuller form. 

It is possibly to the same Jerome of Ascoli, afterwards 
Pope under the name of Nicholas IV, that we owe the 
priceless record of the " Dream of Innocent III " 
which is still to be seen in the Basilica of St. John 
Lateran. It is from a long metrical inscription in 
mosaic, the rest of which narrates the benefactions 
to the Basilica of Pope Nicholas, under whose auspices 
the mosaic was put up. For vividness and simplicity 
the naive hexameters are hard to beat ; one can readily 
believe that they come from a pure Franciscan source. 

" Tertius Ecclesiae Pater Innocentius, hora 
Qua sese dederat somno, nutare ruinae 
Hanc videt Ecclesiam, mox vir pannosus et aspcr 
Despectusque humerum supponens sustinet illam, 
At pater vigilans Franciscum prospicit, atque 
Vere est (inquit) quern vidimus, iste ruentem 
Ecclesiam ; fidemque ; feret, sic ille petitis 
Cunctis concessis liber, laetusque ; recessit." a 



1 Christmas, 1925. 

2 Forcella, Iscrizioni delle Chiese e d'altri edificii di Roma, viii, p. 15, No. 16. 
The inscription was actually in the exterior pilaster of the tribune, see Rohault 
de Fleury, Le Latran au may en age, p. 180. Cf. Bafbier de Montault : " La 
grande pancarte de la Basilique de Latran " in Revue d'Archeologie Chretienne, 
1886, p. 472 (= (Euvres Completes^ i, p. 404) ; and Lauer, Le Palais du Latran, 

277 



ST. FRANCIS 



The spirit of the passage has been well caught by 
Miss Janet Bacon x in the following English version : 

" In the first hour of sleep, Pope Innocent, 
Third of the name, the Church's father, dreamed : 
He saw his Church with ruin imminent 
Shaken and falling ; but anon it seemed 
A ragged man, despised, of rude estate 
Set shoulder under her, and bore the weight. 

" Waking, the Pope saw Francis. Then he cried : 
' The dream was true : the man I saw is here. 
'Tis he shall bear, like strong support and guide, 
The falling Church, the shaken faith.' So fear 
Was calmed, and having nothing left to pray, 
Content and free from care he went away." 

The mosaic, which is carried out in blue and gold, 
may be seen on the right of the Sacristy door, but 
originally it was near the Tribune, being actually part 
of the mosaics executed, though some may only have 
been restored, 2 by order of Nicholas first of the 
Friars Minor to ascend the throne of Peter whose 
authorship of the inscription is therefore very probable. 
This important document needs to be carefully edited. 
It has been transcribed times innumerable, but the 
copies are full of inaccuracies, the mosaic having been 
damaged in the course of repeated removals and much 
of the lettering doubtfully restored. 



191 1, p. 193. O n the mosaics of the tribune see Fr. Beda Kleinschmidt, O.F.M., 
" Die Kunstlerische Kanonisation der HI. Vaters Franzisken " in Archiv. Franc. 
Hist, iii, 1910, p. 615 f. 

1 Director of Classical Studies at Girton Coll., Cambridge. 

2 The latter is the more usual opinion. 

278 



ST. FRANCIS IN ROME 



Pictures of the Pope's Dream and his Sanction of the 
Order are fully dealt with by other contributors to this 
volume, in connection with the whole subject of Fran- 
ciscan art. 1 Here I need only mention, because of the 
dependence upon Rome of their painter Camillo Rusuti, 
the versions of these two episodes from the Franciscan 
cycle in the Upper Church of Assisi, The fresco of 
the Pope sanctioning the Rule has been eloquently 
described by Paul Sabatier as: -"the living symbol of 
the manner in which ecclesiastical authority in the time 
of the great pontiffs understood the Saint's mission." 2 
But neither M. Sabatier nor anyone else would, I 
imagine, now ascribe this or its companion picture 
to Giotto. Modern critics confidently give them with 
certain others of the series to the Roman Rusuti, whose 
style, as known from his mosaics on the facade of 
St. Mary Major's in Rome, they strongly recall. The 
attribution, moreover, seems confirmed by the discovery, 
again due to Dr. Cecchelli, 3 that Rusuti was the painter 
of the episodes from the life of the Saint that formerly 

1 I would wish, however, to draw attention to the version by Taddio Gaddi 
in the Uffizi, where St. Peter appears whispering into the ear of the sleeping 
Pontiff, i.e. the Apostle who built the Church instructs his successor with regard 
to the new Apostle who is to help repair it. 

' In II Rinovamento, II, 1908, p. 425 ff., cited by Beaufreton, p. 159, n.3. 

3 See his note in Roma, vol. ii, 1925, p. 90, to the effect that Giulio Mancini, 
physician to Urban VIII, attributed to Filippo Rusuti the paintings formerly 
in the ancient church of S. Francesco a Ripa, and generally thought to have 
been by Pietro Cavallini. Many critics must re-echo Mgr. Wilpert's regret, 
Mosaiken u. Malereien der Stadt Rom, II, p. 1205, that the frescoes of 
S. Francesco a Ripa were not drawn before they were destroyed. 

279 



ST. FRANCIS 



decorated San Francesco a Ripa in the Trastevere, the 
earliest Franciscan foundation in Rome. 1 Rusuti was 
probably called to Assisi because of the fame of his work 
in Rome, and could his frescoes in San Francesco have 
survived the inevitable changes and transformations 
that overtake the buildings of the Ur6s 9 Assisi might 
have had a Roman rival. He belonged to that cycle 
of Roman painters which includes Cavallini, and which 
strongly influenced the young Giotto when he came 
to Rome in 1299, in the pontificate of Boniface VIII. 
I should not like to say that Rusuti has the vitality 
and strength of Giotto, or as fine a colouring, but 
he has an equal or greater power of narrative and a 
love of detail that derive through illuminated manu- 
scripts from the reliefs of the Roman Empire. It is 
the true Roman delight in the gesta hominum which 
resisted the paralysing influence of Byzantium and never 
completely died out of Western art. 

Ill 

Celano records that after their reception at the 
Lateran, Francis and his companions went straight ad 
Itmina Beati Petrl to render thanks to God, who 
" setteth the humble on high and cheereth the sorrow- 
ful with deliverance " -, 1 and Francis, as he prayed, was 
mindful no doubt of the earlier guidance vouchsafed 



1 Job v, il. The transl. in the A.V. is " to set up on high those that be 
low, that those which mourn may be exalted to safety." 

280 



ST. FRANCIS IN ROME 



him at the Tomb. In the converse of the brethren, 
as they journeyed gaily towards Spoleto's lovely valley, 
the talk was largely of their " gracious reception by the 
vicar of Christ." 

Francis was once again to derive high spiritual aid 
from Pope Innocent. This was in 1215, when he was 
present in St. John Lateran, among the crowd assembled 
to listen to the inaugural sermon preached by Innocent 
at the opening of the twelfth General and Fourth 
Lateran Council. The evidence for the presence of 
St. Francis in Rome on this occasion rests, it is true, 
only on somewhat uncertain testimony, 1 strongly sup- 
ported, however, by evidence from passages in the 
Pope's sermon. As if in curious premonition of his 
own death not a twelve-month later, the Pontiff had 
chosen for his text the words : " With desire I have 
desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer" 
(Luke xxii. 15), but turning later in his discourse to 
the subject of judgement and mercy, he had dwelt, with 
the love of symbol characteristic of mediaeval thought, 
on the meaning of the Hebrew THAU. " THAU," he 
reminded his hearers, 2 " is the last letter of the Hebrew 
alphabet, ... it expresses the form of the Cross such 
as it was before Pontius Pilate placed the title upon it. 
This sign he carries on his forehead who shows forth the 



1 See Fr. Cuthbert, Life of St. Francis, p. 177, n. I, w. ref. ; cf. Mann, 
Lives of the Popes, xii, p. 288. 

2 I quote from Fr. Cuthbert, op. cit., p. 178. The actual text of the 
sermon in Migne, P.L., vol. 217, col. 674 ff. 

28l 



ST. FRANCIS 



power of the Cross in his deeds, according to what the 
Apostle says : They have crucified their flesh 'with their 
vices and concupiscences, and again, God jorbld that I 
should glory save in the Cross oj our Lord Jesus Christ, by 
whom the world is crucified unto me and I unto the world" 
But these words from the Epistle to the Galatians are 
also taken for the Introit of the Mass for the Feast of 
St. Francis, no doubt because those who composed the 
Office knew how great an impression Francis had 
received from the Pope's commentary, and it must be 
for the same reason that the words are adopted as 
their special motto by the Friars Minor. 1 An even 
stronger proof that he heard the sermon at the Lateran 
is afforded by the connection, so brilliantly established 
by Father Cuthbert, between the Saint's adoption 
about this time of the THAU 2 as his peculiar badge and 
the Pope's explanation of the sign and his promise of 
mercy in the judgment to come to him who should 
carry it on his forehead. For the third time Francis 
experienced in Rome a deepening of his mystical life ; 
the sermon of the Pope had set his feet one stage further 
on the road to La Verna and the final ecstasy. 

If the presence of St. Francis in Rome at the time 
of the Council can now be looked upon as a practical 
certainty, there can no longer be any reason to doubt 

1 Cf. Sabatier, Life of St. Francis (E. Tr,), p. 193, n. I, who curiously fails to 
note tke connection of the motto with the Pope's sermon which he does not 
even mention. On p. 199 he throws doubts on the visit of Francis to Rome in 
1215, without attempting to examine its possibilities. 

2 See Celano de Mirac., 3. 

282 



ST. FRANCIS IN ROME 



the tradition which refers to this same occasion the 
first meeting with St. Dominic, whose attendance at the 
Council is an accepted fact. Wherever the meeting 
took place it brought St. Francis into touch with a 
soul akin to his own. A spiritual comradeship ensued 
between these two apostles of a purified Christendom, 
which is symbolised in those numerous pictures and 
reliefs that show them united in a transcendental 
embrace. Tradition tells of a dream in which Pope 
Honorius saw Dominic, like another Francis, upholding 
the falling Church. Whether this second dream, so 
beautifully represented by Fra Angelico in the predella 
of the great picture in the Louvre, be apocryphal or 
not, the story expresses, as nothing else could, the equal 
co-operation of Dominic and of Francis in the spiritual 
regeneration of the time. It is a strange perversion of 
historic truth to represent the Church as heaping favours 
upon Dominic * and treating him as an enfant gate, 
while holding Francis at arm's length and only tolerating 
him to keep him from breaking into rebellion. Like 
St. Peter and St. Paul, so St. Dominic and St. Francis 
have never been separated in the thought of the 
Church. It is as Princes of a new Apostolate that they 
are chiefly reverenced in the churches of the Urbs, 
while in the tribune of the premier church of Christen- 
dom they are represented one on each side of the 
Cathedra Petri, captaining the noble company of 

1 Sabatier, Life, p. 215, represents Dominic " overwhelmed with favours 
by the Pope," and Francis as looked upon " with mixed sentiments." 

283 



ST. FRANCIS 



saints that forms a guard of honour round the Tomb 
of the Apostle. 1 

IV 

Innocent III had died in 1216 at the comparatively 
early age of fifty-six, worn out by his labours at the 
Council. Under his successor Honorius III (Cencio 
Savelli) it is St. Dominic who for a while takes the front 
of the stage, obtaining in 1218 the fuller permission 
for his Rule which had been partially withheld in 1215. 
In the previous year, 1217, Francis also returned to 
Rome, driven by trouble within his Order to have 
recourse to the Church, that the ill-disposed among his 
restless children might, in the strong phrase of Celano, 
" .be smitten with the rod of her power " (Vadam igitur 
et eos Sanctce Romance Ecclesice commendabo emus potentia 
virga percellantur male-volt ... II, Celano, 24). On 
this occasion Francis preached before Pope Honorius 
as recounted by Celano (II, 25) and shown in one of the 
Assisi frescoes. The illustrious Ugolino Conti, Cardinal- 
Bishop of Ostia, whose interest in Francis had gone on 
increasing since a first meeting between them in 121 6, 2 

1 On Francis and Dominic see especially Fr. Hilarin Felder, O.F.M. Cap. 
Geschichte der Wissenschaftlichen Studien im Franziskanerorden, 1904, p. 10 
and p. 1 8 ff. ; cf. Mann, Popes, xii, p. 484. 

a The first meeting had been at Florence when Ugolino had dissuaded 
Francis from going to France and advised him to keep to his Italian Apostolate. 
The Cardinal's wise dealings with the Clarisse had probably influenced Francis 
in his desire to have him for Protector of his own Order ; Beaufreton, 
St. Franfois, p. 169 ff. According to Angelo of Clareno, Ugolino had been 
present among the Cardinals who advocated approval of the first rule in 
1209; see the passage quoted by Sabatier, Life, p. 95 ; cf. id. p. 201, n. z. 

284 



ST. FRANCIS IN ROME 



was specially anxious that the holy man should do him- 
self credit before the Curia. But to the dismay of those 
present, the Saint stood silent awhile, having forgotten 
every word of his carefully prepared discourse ; swiftly, 
however, he recovered himself and yielding to inspiration 
spoke words of such power, says St. Bonaventura, 
" that it was manifestly seen that it was not himself 
that spake, but the Spirit of the Lord," or as Celano 
says with a droll mixture of biblical metaphors " the 
mountains were moved at his words, and heaving deep 
sighs from their profound recesses, bathed the inner 
man with tears." 

" When the sermon was ended," goes on Celano, 
" after a few words of friendly discourse with the Lord 
Pope, Francis at length petitioned him as follows : 
My lord, as you know, access to such . Majesty as yours is 
not readily granted to men poor and despised. Tou hold 
the world in your hands, and businesses oj vast moment 
allow you not to attend to the smallest matters. Wherejore 
(he said), / beg oj your Holiness 1 compassion that this 
Lord of Ostia may be granted us for a Pope, to the end 
that, saving always the dignity oj your pre-eminence, the 
brethren may resort to him in time oj need and jetchjrom 
him the benefits both oj protection and oj governance." 

And the Pope, much edified, set Ugolino " over the 
Religion." These details are of peculiar significance. 
In the interval of seven years since his first audience of 
Pope Innocent in 1210, the personal sanctity of Francis 
and the importance of his missionary work were so 

285 



ST. FRANCIS 



universally acknowledged, and so profoundly appreci- 
ated in Rome, that in his consciousness of growing 
power he felt able to present to the Pope a petition 
which, for all the humility of its language, is in the 
nature of a command. There is something whimsical, 
moreover, in Francis saying to the Pope, " You are much 
too busy, Holy Father, to attend to the affairs of poor 
beggars like ourselves ; just give us Cardinal Ugolino." 
The whole episode is typical of Italian geniality and 
bonhomie -, and the Saint got, of course, exactly what 
he wanted. The appointment of Ugolino as Protector 
of the Order was a foregone conclusion. From that 
time the friendship between the venerable Cardinal of 
seventy and the young and ardent Saint, who in 1217 
was only thirty-four, ripened into an intimacy of which 
many and charming incidents are recorded. 1 The 
story of Ugolino's visit to the Chapter of Mats and the 
Portiuncula and the humility of his deportment on the 
occasion are familiar episodes, 1 but we are only con- 
cerned here with what happened in Rome. Ugolino's 
anxiety when Francis preached before Pope Honorius has 
already been mentioned. On another occasion we find 
that in company with the Cardinal, Francis visited the 
Sacro Speco of Subiaco, laying there in the cradle of 
monasticism his own offering of a new flower of devotion. 
To this visit we owe what is probably the earliest 



1 For a good account of the relations of Francis to Ugolino as narrated by 
Celano see Walter Goetz : Die Quellen zur Geschichte des heiligen Franz, von 
Assisi (1904), p. 74 ff. 

286 



ST. FRANCIS IN ROME 



portrait of St. Francis, the one still to be seen at Subiaco, 
in which he holds the rotulus inscribed Pax Huic 
Domuiy his usual salutation on entering a house. 

He should also be recognised, it is thought, in the 
young cowled friar to the left of Ugolino, in the fresco 
representing the consecration of the Chapel of San 
Gregorio which took place on the occasion of the 
Cardinal's visit. Another fresco at Subiaco represents 
Innocent III promulgating a decree, so that in the famous 
Benedictine Abbey memories of St. Francis mingle 
with those of his two most illustrious friends and protec- 
tors. The visit to Subiaco took place during the 
Roman stay of 1217 more probably than in 1223, when 
the time and thought of Francis were entirely absorbed 
in the revision of the Rule, but there are technical 1 
reasons for not dating the portrait earlier than 1228, 
the year of the canonisation. It must, however, have 
been executed prior to this event, which took place i 
July, since Francis is shown without the aureole, and 
without the stigmata, which only received official recog- 
nition with the act of canonisation. 

The revision of the Rule, which in its final form 7 
owes so much to the care and wisdom of Ugolino, has 
very generally been represented as the cause of profound 
distress to the Saint as well as of unhappy dissension in 

1 H. Thode, Franz von Assist, i, p. 72, note I, shows from the inscription 
below the picture of the consecration of the chapel that this was painted in the 
second year of the Pontificate of Gregory IX, and the portrait of Francis is 
evidently of the same date. See also F. Hermanin, / monasteri di Subiaco, 
i. p. 439, and R. van Marie, Italian Sc. of Painting, i, 1923, p. 428 f. 

287 



ST. FRANCIS 



the Order, and the impression still lingers that Francis 
accepted as his cross the submission to Rome. The 
question is not one that can be discussed here. We 
may readily believe that the work of formulating the 
Rule, of giving their just value to its parts, of trimming 
it down to the required proportions, must have been 
irksome in the extreme to a man of an ardent and 
mystical temperament, and fear lest the letter should 
kill the spirit must have proved a constant trial. But 
Rome once more lifted the burden from his shoulders, 
and everything that he did after the promulgation of the 
Rule shows how rapidly his serene and happy nature 
reasserted itself in his sense of a newly found freedom. 
Had Francis suffered from the decrees of the Holy See, 
Dante who devout and convinced Catholic though he 
was never hesitated to lash any Pope whose opinions 
conflicted with his own, would not have written the 
beautiful lines : 

" Di seconds corona redimita 

Fu per Onorio del Eterno Spiro 

La Santa Voglia d'esto archimandrita." 

Paradiso, xi, 97-99. 

They show that in Dante's mind at least no injustice 
had been done to the Saint whom one suspects him of 
having loved above all others. 

The Papal Bull ratifying the Rule in its revised 
form is dated November 29th, and not a fortnight later 
we find Francis, who had remained in Rome, making 
preparation to celebrate Christmas at Greccio in joyous 

288 



ST. FRANCIS IN ROME 



and novel fashion, encouraged to this, it appears, by 
Pope Honorius himself. Stimulated perhaps by the 
sight of the beautiful presepii or cribs put up at Christmas 
time in memory of Bethlehem in the churches of 
Rome, and more especially in St. Mary Major's, proud 
guardian of the Sane fa Culla, he seems to have deter- 
mined to outdo them all. Sending messengers ahead 
to command the presence of a live ox and a live ass, he 
himself made arrangements for the episode which was to 
mark the climax of the scene : In hoc sacello \ Franciscus \ 
Reclinavit Christum in praesepio, says the inscription in 
the little chapel built over the sacred spot. 

So far as we can tell, Francis never saw Rome again. 
" For him, the cult of the cradle was inseparable from 
that of the Cross," says Joergensen, " and Bethlehem 
was quite close to Golgotha." But after Golgotha and 
the mystic heights of La Verna, there was nothing left 
but to sing the hymn of praise which is the Canticle 
of Fra Sole, before passing to the eternal habitations. 



V 

In the course of his repeated sojourns in Rome 
definite friendships had been formed, traces of which 
may still be found in the actual monuments of the city, 
as in the tales of the chroniclers. Sponsored in the 
first instance by his own Bishop, he had soon become 
known to all the more important members of the papal 
court. Francis was nothing if not good company ; 

u 289 



ST. FRANCIS 



his ready wit, as much as the edification of his talk and 
the sanctity of his example, made him a welcome guest 
whenever he could be induced to accept hospitality. 
Besides the house of his friend Cardinal Ugolino, he 
also stayed at that of Cardinal Leone Brancaleone, a 
distinguished member of the Curia, who had been 
Cardinal-Deacon of the little church of Santa Lucia 
in SeptewsolisJ- near the Palatine, and was later promoted 
to be Cardinal-Priest of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. 
On one occasion, he accepted the Cardinal's invitation 
on condition that he should be allowed to sleep with 
the Brother who accompanied him, in an old tower or 
refuge in the garden ; but even from this modicum 
of shelter he was driven by the visits of " guastaldi," 
or " policemen " of the Lord as he called them in 
other words, by demons, who so terrified the holy man 
that he called out loudly for his companion. In his 
Lives of the Cardinals, Ciaconnius says that Brancaleone 
lived in muris, that is, I take it, against or beside the old 
Aurelian Walls, and I have very little doubt that the 
chamber occupied by Francis .was one of the vaults 
or galleries of the walls, 2 places so full of bats and 
other noxious creatures that the Saint's uncomfortable 



1 The little church which was on Frangipani property (see below) has 
long since disappeared. It will be fully discussed in Huelsen's forthcoming 
Le Ckiese di Roma nel media Evo. Cf. Bartoli in Bulletino d'Arte, iii, pp. 253- 
269; Lanciani Storia d. Scavi } iv, p. I38f. j Cristofori, Storia dei Cardinali. 
1888, i, p. 230, etc. 

2 It is described by II Celano 1 19 as " a secluded tower with nine vaulted 
chambers " (transl. Ferrer s-Howell). 

290 



ST. FRANCIS IN ROME 



experiences may be readily accounted for. Professor 
Huelsen, the veteran leader of Roman topographical 
studies whom I consulted on the point, reminds me 
that a chamber in the Aurelian Wall, immediately above 
the Porta San Sebastiano, is reputed to be 1 frescoed with 
pictures of devils, in recollection no doubt of nocturnal 
discomforts experienced by those who had tried to find 
shelter in the disused galleries. Next to fixing the sites 
of churches, nothing in the mediaev?". topography of 
Rome is more important than to discover where lay the 
palaces of the Cardinals. The story of the " guastaldi " 
may prove to be the clue to the whereabouts of the 
residence of Brancaleone, which should be looked for, 
I think, near his titular church of Santa Croce, adjoining 
the wall and also perhaps the old anfiteatro castrense. 
We also hear of Francis as a guest of Nicholas Chiara- 
monti, Cardinal-Bishop of Tusculum, the friend and 
patron of the famous Brother Giles (Egidio). Nicholas, 
indeed, though he had been a Cistercian monk, was so 
devoted to the Franciscan ideal that he wished at one 
time to lay aside his Cardinalate and become a Friar 
Minor, but was dissuaded by the Pope. Nor must 
we forget the diverting incident at the house of Car- 
dinal Ugolino himself, when Francis, declining to 
partake of the excellent fare provided by his host, 
proceeded to collect from the street black crusts which 

1 Prof. Huelsen had this from Prof. Bartoli. The association of devils with 
the ruins of pagan Rome was common ; see the story of Benvenuto Cellini 
and the devils called up in the Coliseum, quoted by Sabatier, Life, p. 189, n. I. 

291 



ST. FRANCIS 



he set before the guests, afterwards parrying with his 
usual wit and charm the rebuke gently administered 
to him by the somewhat disconcerted Cardinal 

* 

(II Celano 73). 

Among others who delighted in Francis and held 
him in affectionate regard, were John of St. Paul, 
first Protector of the Order, and the learned Cardinal 
who plied the Saint with searching questions in Holy 
Scripture, declaring himself highly edified by the 
answers he received. 1 These anecdotes show how frank 
was the intercourse between Francis and many of the 
most distinguished members of the Roman Curia, and 
how gaily he responded to the cordiality shown him. 
It is difficult to account for the perverse conception of a 
Rome in the least hostile to St. Francis, or anxious to 
clip his wings. But old superstitions die hard and the 
notion still persists that liberty must of necessity be 
thwarted, where authority is upheld. 

VI 

We have left for the last, what was perhaps the 
closest, of his Roman friendships. In the Assisi legend 
St. Clare, occupying with her virginal charm the whole 
space allotted to woman, has supplanted that exquisite 
flower of Roman tradition, Jacopa di Settesoli, with 
whom Francis was linked in bonds of the closest intimacy, 
and whom, in admiration of her virile character and in 

1 Told by Celano (II, 104), who omits the Cardinal's name. 

292 



ST. FRANCIS IN ROME 



recognition of their fraternal comradeship, he affection- 
ately dubbed, not Sister, but Brother Jacopa. Pere 
Edouard d'Alen9on, in his fascinating monograph on 
Dame Jacqueline?- " that little jewel of learning and 
grace," as Pietro Fedele calls it, has rendered familiar 
the main facts of her life. Belonging by birth to the 
powerful family of the Normanni, through whom she 
was connected with the Anguillara, and married to a 
Frangipani, Jacopa was a lady of wealth and high 
position. Early left a widow, she proved herself a strong 
and watchful guardian of the interests of her young 
sons, prepared though Francis, we may believe with 
Pere fidouard, finally dissuaded her from the suit, 
to go to law on their behalf against attempted en- 
croachments on their property even by the Holy See. 
For the Frangipani were great landowners, in the TJrbs 
and outside it. In Rome their far-reaching property 
extended from the Arch of Titus to the Tiber, including 
with the Coelian Hill and large stretches of the Palatine, 
the old Septizonium or House of the Seven Planets, 
erected by Septimius. Severus, from which Jacopa's 
husband Graziano took his title of Settesoli. Jacopa 
stands out as the very impersonation of a great Roman 
lady, combining with Christian saintliness the ancient 
Roman virtues. Though the Frangipani lived across 
the Tiber, Jacopa must often have visited her husband's 

1 Paris, 1899 (reprint from Etudes Francisciones, ii, 227-242). See Sabatier's 
criticisms in Opuscules de Critique Historique, fasc. XV, Mars 1910 (" Examen 
critique des recits concernantla visite de Jacqueline de Settesoli a St. Franjois "). 

293 



ST. FRANCIS 



Palatine property 1 and trodden its historic paths, 
dimly conscious perhaps of a resemblance between 
herself and the Imperial ladies who had walked there 
in the past. Like the Empress Livia she had an excellent 
business head, and like Julia Domna, the Syrian wife of 
Septimius Severus and the patron of mystics, she was 
filled with an ardent curiosity regarding the things of the 
spirit. Her friendship with Francis is often said to 
date from a visit of the Saint to Rome in 1212, which 
it is, however, difficult to establish. Or they may have 
met in 1215, at the time of the Council. Joergensen 
has charmingly described her friendship with Francis, 
his feeling of ease in her home. Jacopa's house, 
says the great Danish writer, " c'etait sa Bethanie ; 
Jacqueline lui etait tout ensemble Marthe et Marie." 
Few details, however, are known of the early stages of the 
intimacy, which by 1217 must have been considerable, 
if Jacopa's lawsuit, which was settled in that year, was 
really dropped by the advice of Francis, whose horror 
of litigation is well known. The coincidence of dates 
is remarkable. Francis was in Rome in 1217, and the 
act of settlement was duly signed before notaries in 
that same year. 



1 It came into bis family in 1145 by purchase from the Benedictines of 
Camaldoli settled in San Gregorio. The whole region took its name from the 
Septizonium : the elections of Innocent III and of Honorius III in San Gregorio 
are referred to as taking place in Septizonio see Lauer, op. cit., p. 194. 
For the Frangipani property see also Fr. Ehrle, S.J., in Melanges Chdtelain, 
Paris, 1910, p. 465, and Pietro Fedele, " Sull'origine d. Frangipani " in Archiv. d. 
Reale Soc. Romanane di Storia Patria, xxxiii. 1910, p. 493. 

294 



ST. FRANCIS IN ROME 



It is often said that Jacopa was, with St. Clare, the \ 
only woman on whose face the Saint had ever looked, j 
But Francis had a third female devotee like Jacopa, I 
presumably a Roman, who somehow dropped out of | 
his history. This was the strange recluse Praxedis, ) 
whose existence has been brought to our knowledge by | 
Celano's treatise de Miracults^ rediscovered in iSgg. 1 | 
Praxedis, a woman famous for her sanctity throughout 
the whole world (religlosarum jamosissima In Urbe ac or be 
Romano), had for love of the Heavenly Spouse lived for 
forty years from her tenderest infancy as an anchoress 
within a narrow prison, when Francis granted her a 
special grace, being the sole woman of whom it is 
recorded that he received her " into obedience," himself 
bestowing upon her the habit and the cord. 2 After his 
death he delivered her by a conspicuous miracle from 
the terrible straits to which an accident had reduced 
her. The whole story suggests that Praxedis was a 
spiritual intimate of Francis : cur mihi miserrimae, quae 
tuam dulcissimam gratiam utcumque te uiuente promerui, 
non succurris ? she cries to him as she lies hunched up 
and helpless. One wonders in what forgotten corner 

1 By Fr. van Ortroy, Bollandist, in the Franciscan Museum at Marseilles ; 
see Anal. Bottand., xviii. 1899, pp. 81-176. The story of Praxedis is given 
de Mirac., 181. 

2 M. Beaufreton, St. Franfois, p. 227 f., believes she was a Franciscan oblate, 
an institution that disappeared in 1221, and was replaced by the Order of 
Penitence (so-called Third Order). Fr. Cuthbert (ed. 1921), p. 474, just refers 
to the incident of Praxedis ; otherwise Beaufreton is, I believe, the very first 
writer in Franciscan subjects to have given any attention to her story, cf, his 
St. Fratifois, p. 104, note I. 

295 



ST. FRANCIS 



of the city the Saint came across this curious personage, 
whether her prison-cell was in one of the poorer quarters 
of the Trastevere, and whether his attention had in the 
first instance been directed to her by the charitable 
Jacopa, who lived in that part of Rome. 

Francis himself was connected with the Trastevere, 
not that he is ever likely to have been a guest of lay 
folk like the Frangipani, but he stayed in 1217, it 
is said in the little Benedictine convent annexed to 
the Church of San Biagio, which was Anguillara pro- 
perty. This church was later made over to the Francis- 
cans, through the intervention possibly of Jacopa, 1 
and rededicated in honour of St. Francis. Throughout 
every transformation 1 San Francesco a Ripa, as it is 
called from the vicinity of the Tiber, retains the cell 
said to have been inhabited by the Saint. This contains 
a truly imposing collection of relics of him, arranged 
in a wonderful seventeenth century revolving cabinet. 
More interesting still is the portrait of Francis to be 
seen there, wearing the capuce and holding in his 
hand an open book on which are inscribed the words 
guts vu/t venire post me abneget se ipsum et tollat suam 
crucem? The portrait has recently been cleaned and, by 
the care of Monsignor Wilpert, freed of a disfiguring 

1 Panciroli, Tesori Nascosti, p. 573, gives the date of the gift as 1229, and 
names Count Rodolfo d' Anguillara as owner of the site. An idea of what the 
exterior of San Francesco looked like, before the disastrous modern restorations, 
may be obtained from Franzini's print. 

2 This is the portrait preferred to any other by H. Thode, Franz, v. Assist, 
i } p. 73, as best answering to the description of the Saint by Celano. 

296 



ST. FRANCIS IN ROME 



modern aureole. 1 It must be left to experts to decide 
what the relation is between this portrait and the one 
by Margaritone of Arezzo at Castel Florentine, which 
it is said to resemble. According to a very old 
tradition it was the gift to the church of Jacopa di 
Settesoli, 2 a tradition, however, that also attaches without 
the shadow of a proof to the much later portrait at 
Greccio. Still another portrait that once existed in 
Rome is mentioned by St. Bonaventura as in the posses- 
sion of a Roman lady (matrona quaedam\ at whose 
prayer the stigmata appeared in the picture which 
before had lacked them, which means that the portrait 
was very old and painted before the canonisation. 

In the Franciscan legend Jacopa's place has been 
usurped by St. Clare. Art, as well as the Fioretti, has 
made Clare the prominent, indeed the only woman knit 
in sympathy with St. Francis. But in the very nature 
of the case, intercourse and comradeship with an inde- 
pendent Roman widow must have been fuller and 
freer than with the cloistered mother of a contemplative 
Order. We have the proof of this in the authenticated 
record by his early chronicler, Thomas of Celano, of the 
momentous scene at the close of his life, when, miracu- 
lously anticipating the wishes of the Saint and forestalling 
his messenger to her, she presented herself with a great 

1 Wilpert, Mosaiken und Malereien, vol. ii, p. 1151, with, plate ; on portraits 
of St. Francis see now both the smaller and the larger monographs of Padre 
Vittorino Facchinetti, O.F.M. (Iconografia Francescana, Milan, 1924.) 

2 Wadding, Annales, ii, p. 228 (ann. 1212) ; for the portrait at Greccio 
see Sabatier, Examen Critique, p. 301 ff. 

297 



ST. FRANCIS 



retinue, bearing with her all that he was requesting her 
to bring, by letter 1 or otherwise, including the cloth 
in which to wrap his body after death. To quote 
from Celano : " There was heard at the door a sound of 
noises, the clamour of soldiers., the thronging of a great 
company," and Francis hearing of the arrival, and fore- 
stalling narrow-minded objections as to clausura^ called 
out with eager haste, " Blessed be God, who has guided 
our Brother Jacopa to us ! Open the doors and lead 
her in thither, for the rule concerning women is not to be 
observed for our Brother Jacopa ! " What follows must 
be told in the words of Celano himself : 

" There was great rejoicing between the noble host 
and his guest, many spiritual greetings and much 
shedding of tears. And to make the miracle complete, 
the holy woman was found to have brought whatever 
the letter had already requested her to bring for the 
Father's obsequies. For she brought a cloth of ashen 
hue with which to cover the body of the departing, 
and many candles, and fine linen to cover his face, a 
pillow for his head, and a certain dish for which the 
Saint had hungered : all that the spirit of this man had 
desired, God had suggested to her. I will follow 
this journey to its end lest I send the noble traveller away 
without consolation. A multitude of people was in 
attendance, and in particular, a large and devoted 

1 The supposed letter is presumably apocryphal ; see Goetz, Zur Qttellen- 
geschichte, p. 32. 

298 



ST. FRANCIS IN ROME 



company from Rome, waiting for what should shortly 
become by the death of the Saint a feast day. But his 
strength was so revived by this evidence of the devotion 
of Rome that he predicted that he would live a little 
longer. So that lady decided that the remainder of the 
company should be free to go and rest, and that she 
alone would stay, with her sons and a few armed retainers. 
But the Saint said, " No. I shall die on Saturday, and 
you shall return with them all on Sunday." Thus 
it was accomplished ; at the hour foretold, he who>had 
fought bravely in the Church Militant, entered the 
Church Triumphant. I pass over the thronging of the 
people, the voices of those who gave thanks, the solemn 
ringing of the bells, the sheddings of tears. I will not 
dwell upon the weeping of his children, the sobs of his 
dear ones, the sighing of the brethren." 

This is as vivid as a page of Livy, as crowded with 
life as a relief from the Trajan Column. In a quieter 
vein Celano then proceeds to describe the mourning 
of Jacopa over the dead. 

" She, therefore, all drenched in tears, was led 
secretly apart and the body of her friend was placed in 
her arms. ' Here,' said the vicar, 1 'hold even in death 
the man whom you cherished living.' She bedewed the 
body with warmer tears, redoubled her mournful cries 
and sobs, and renewing her embraces and caresses of the 
lifeless body lifted the veil that she might see him revealed. 

1 I.e. Brother Elias of Cortona. 
299 



ST. FRANCIS 



What more shall I say ? She beheld that precious 
vessel in which a not less precious treasure had lain hid, 
adorned with its five pearls of great price." 1 

Jacopa, having penetrated the ineffable mystery of 
the Stigmata, ordered that it should be made manifest, 
and the body shown to the whole company of the devout 
throng without. One of those present, a young boy, 
afterwards a high official of the Papal court, is called 
by the chronicler to witness of the truth and accuracy 
of the recital. 

One cannot but wish that Giotto, who has given the 
dramatic form we all know to the Ptanto delle CJarisse, 
had also painted the Lament of Brother Jacopa. But 
by the time Giotto was working at Assisi, the story of 
Jacopa had been almost totally suppressed. A tamer 
version of it is reproduced in the Mirror of Perfection? 
In St. Bonaventura's Legenda it is whittled down 
to the pious anecdote, on the level of the Fioretti, 
of the little lamb which the Saint gave to Jacopa, and 
which used to butt its mistress with its tiny horns to 
wake her up in the morning. Most modern biographers 
are agreed in supposing that the friendship was too 
intense, the language in which Celano tells it too direct 
and passionate to suit the hagiographers, who feared 

1 These translations are likewise by Miss Janet Bacon, to whom I wish to 
express my gratitude for the trouble she has taken to weigh the exact meaning 
of the mediaeval Latin. 

2 The two versions of the story of Jacopa, given in Speculum (cap. 112) and 
Celano de Mirac. (37-39) respectively, have been critically analysed by Beau- 
freton, 5;. Francois, p. 288 ff. 

300 



ST. FRANCIS IN ROME 



it might prove a cause of scandal to the pious. Little / 
by little, Jacopa, Praxedis, one Colomba, 1 and possibly / 
other devoted lay-women disappeared from the Fran- f 
ciscan legend, where Clare the nun was left to reign I 
supreme. But the noble episode of the friendship of 
Jacopa and Francis was not forgotten, and Bernard of 
Bessa, the secretary and successor of Bonaventura, gives 
us an impressive though epitomised version of the death 
scene, 2 and there is an allusion to it in the life of Bernard 
of Quintavalle in the Annals of the Twenty-four Generals, 
with the new detail of the blessing to Brother Bernard. 3 
Wadding likewise preserves the story, though in an 
incomplete and unsatisfactory version. 4 

Since Pere Edouard d'Alencon published his Dame 
Jacqueline, Jacopa has to a certain extent been re- 
instated in the Franciscan legend. In his edition of the 
Speculum Sabatier had perceived her importance ; 5 
Father Cuthbert and M. Joergensen describe the scene at 
the Saint's death-bed ; M. Beaufreton dwells eloquently 
on Jacopa's magnificent outburst of grief over the dead 
body of the Saint ; and most of the popular biographies 

1 A woman of this name is said to have given to St. Francis the hermitage of I 
Fonte Colombo ; but see Fr. Cuthbert, ed. 1921, p. 381, n. 2. 

2 Archivio della R. Soc. Romano, di Storia Patria for 1903, pp. 207-217. 

3 AnaL Franc, iii, p. 42. Cum vero beatus Franciscus gravissime infirmaretur, 
et domina Jacoba de Septemsoliis, nobilissima Romano, qttae ad eum de urbe uenerat 
quandam comestionem cum magna deuotione paratam Sancto Patri sedule obtulisset 
(follows the blessing to Bro. Bernard). 

4 Annales, ii, p. 132 (ann..l2i2). 

5 See his ed. of Speculum, p. 273 fF., w. ref. to an earlier note on Jacopa 
by P. Ed. d'Alenjon in Miscell. Francisc., iv, p. 168. 

301 



ST. FRANCIS 



and articles brought out for the Franciscan Jubilee 
make sympathetic mention of her. Mr. Laurence 
Housman brings her into several of his delightful 
Franciscan plays, though he makes her almost into an 
Assisiate, and alas, substitutes an unfamiliar Sister 
Giacomina for the beloved Brother Jacopa. 1 

The charming article, contributed to the history of 
the Frangipani family by Pietro Fedele, under the 
name of " Leopardo e Agnello dt Casa Frangipani," z 
shows how much concerning the circles to which Jacopa 
belonged is still hidden in Roman archives. The story 
of her life and its circumstances throws light, not 
only on one of the most poignant episodes in the life 
of St. Francis, but also on the Roman society of the 
time, on its habits, its pleasures and pursuits, its houses, 
its servants, and even the things they ate, the cakes of 
almond paste made in Casa Frangipani, for instance, 
being specially celebrated. 3 St. Francis himself partook 
of them with relish and asked for some as he lay sick. 

After the death of Francis Jacopa apparently 
devoted the rest of a long life to furthering the ideals 
of her friend and ministering to his brethren. It is 
said that she resided mainly in Assisi, where one likes 
to think of her as being present at the canonisation of 
July 26, 1228, and at the laying of the foundation-stone 

1 See further Sabatier, Life, p. 340; Mrs. R. Goff, Assisi of St. Francis, 
pp. 36, 146, 216, 218, 242 f. 

2 In Arcbivio, detta R. Soc. R. di St. Patria, xxviii. 1905, p. 207 if. 

. 3 They still survive under the Italian name of frangi-pane or marzapane, 
French massepain, English marzipan. 

302 



ST. FRANCIS IN ROME 



of the great basilica which took place on the following 
day. She was probably in Assisi when the translation 
of the Saint's body from its first resting-place in S. 
Giorgio to the Lower Church in 1230 was accom- 
plished in the sensational manner we all know. She 
may also have witnessed the ceremony of consecration 
by Innocent IV in I245, 1 when by the Bull Is qui 
ecclesiam the basilica was declared mater et caput 
of the Order. And here, in the Lower Church, not 
far from the Tomb of the illustrious Saint who had 
been her loyal friend and companion, Jacopa herself 
was laid to rest, as recorded in the inscription : 

Hie REQUIESCIT JACOPA, SANCTA 

NOBILISQUE ROMANA 

words of a grand simplicity that call up in Assisi those 
far-away days in Rome when Francis had first met his 
Brother Jacopa. They are permanent evidence of that 
" devotion of Rome " which had afforded Francis 
supreme and longed for consolation as he lay dying. 

The very basilica built in the Saint's honour links 
him in quite peculiar manner to the Eternal City. To 
pious but narrow-minded souls its splendour has seemed 
alien to Franciscan ideals of humility and poverty 
an insult almost to him who had wished to be known as 
the " little poor man." But to the more generous- 
minded it appears as the due of the Saint in glory. 

1 She seems to have been still alive in 1273 ; Sabatier, Speculum, p. 276. 

33 



ST. FRANCIS 



It rises above the Tomb, enshrining in its triple majesty 
memories of the Poverello of Assisi, even as in the distant 
TJrbs another and greater basilica, it, too, built over a 
Tomb, enshrines in yet more dazzling splendour the 
memory of him who had been the Fisherman of 
Galilee. 



ADDENDA 

P. 275. speculum^ presumably the same as the classical specula, a 
sort of watch-tower. 

P. 282. Fine examples of the Franciscan THAU cross at the end 
of the MS. with the De reverentia Corporis Domini in Rome (Bibl. 
Valicell. B. 24, fol. 117 v) ; another at the end of the MS. with the 
Blessing to Bro. Leo at the Sacro Convento in Assisi. 

P. 289. presepii : it was long believed that St. Francis had instituted 
the custom ; but see Dom Leclercq in Diet, d'^rch. Chret., art. creche, 
and for the antiquity of the "Crib " at St. Mary Major's, see Mgr. G. 
Biasiotti, " Riprod. della Grotta . . . di Betlem nella bas. di S.M.M." 
in Dissert, Pont. Acad. Rom di Archeol. 1920, p. 97 ff. 

P. 296. S. Francesco a Ripa : from notes on' the old foundation 
of S. Biagio kindly sent me by Prof. Hiilsen it appears that S. Biagio still 
existed in 1420 by the side of the newer Franciscan foundation, and that 
" like many other small churches " it was only destroyed at the beginning 
of the sixteenth century. I omit transcribing here all the proofs 
accumulated by Hiilsen, as his book will be out at Christmas. 

Bibliography. When not otherwise stated, the ed. of Fr. Cuthbert's 
St. Francis is the first (1912). For the Latin text of Celano's three 
treatises I have used the ed. of P. Ed. d' Alencon (Rome, Desclee, 1906), 
and for English transl. of Celano I and II A. G. Ferrers-HowelPs 
" The Lives of St. Francis of Assisi, etc.," 1908. 

304 



TWO FRANCISCAN MYSTICS: JACOPONE 
DA TODI AND ANGELA OF FOLIGNO 



By EVELYN UNDERBILL. 



TWO FRANCISCAN MYSTICS : JACOPONE 
DA TODI AND ANGELA OF FOLIGNO 

A GREAT movement, whether religious or secular, only 
begins to show its full quality and power when it 
spreads from the founder and his first nucleus of dis- 
ciples, and begins to draw in and transmute men and 
women of many different temperaments. It is then 
that we see what elements are indeed essential to it ; 
what new things of permanent value it has to give the 
race. This is supremely true of Christianity, which 
first shows its world-changing power when it captures 
St. Paul, and through him the Gentile world. It is 
also true of the Christian revival initiated by St. Francis. 
Thus, in studying the later developments of the Fran- 
ciscan spirit, in observing the many types it was able to 
attract and transform, we are in the truest sense learning 
more about St. Francis himself. 

There was developed among these disciples and 
spiritual descendants of Francis a particular and recogniz- 
able type of spiritual feeling and experience. We need 
not say that this sort of feeling and attitude this 
special way of loving and realizing God came into 
existence as the result of the Franciscan movement. 
There are clear traces of it in religious literature before 

307 



ST. FRANCIS 



his day. But in the souls which were formed by 
Francis and which tried to live by his example, it seems 
to have found a peculiarly favourable soil. It appears 
very clearly in the work of the great poet of the move- 
ment, Jacopone da Todi ; and in the mystical experi- 
ences and recorded teachings of one of the most remark- 
able of those women who capitulated to the Franciscan 
demand and kept the spirit of the Founder alive the 
Blessed Angela of Foligno. 

Now this special spiritual outlook embraced in its 
span the most transcendental and most homely aspects 
of religion. It included both the awestruck sense of 
the majesty of God and the most fervent and intimate 
love of Christ. Both are clearly present in Francis 
himself. We see him repeating all night in the house 
of Bernardo Quintavalle the great, unanswerable ques- 
tion of the adoring soul " My God and All ! What 
art Thou and what am I ? " We see him before the 
crib at Greccio in an ecstasy of tender devotion ; or 
again " singing in French speech " romantic songs to 
his Love, or on La Verna entering with such ardent 
realism into the sorrow and meaning of the Passion 
that he bore upon his limbs the very marks of Christ. 
We see the same extremes in a more acute form in 
the poems of the far more sophisticated and learned 
Jacopone ; who was able to draw, as Francis could not, 
on all the resources of Christian philosophy. At one 
moment he carries us so far into the most abstract con- 
ceptions of Deity, that the mind is dazzled and we feel 

308 



TWO FRANCISCAN MYSTICS 



the poet himself has almost exceeded the proper bounds 
of speech : 

O infigurabil luce, O Inconceivable Light ! 

chi te puo figurare, Who can Thy secrets tell ? 

che volesti abitare Thou Who wast fain to dwell 

en la scura tenebria ? In darkness deep and obscure ! 

Tuo lume non conduce No more is Thy lantern bright 

chi te veder gli pare To guide the soul who would 

potere mesurare spell, 

de te quel che sia. Measure and mark Thee well, 

Notte veggio ch'e dia, And seize on Thine Essence pure, 

virtute non se trova, Virtue nor strength is sure ; 

non sa de te dar prova The night is turned to the day, 

chi vede quel splendore. No words, no language have they 

Thy splendour and light that 
see. 1 

At another moment we seem to be before the crib with 
Francis, and hear again in Jacopone's carol the accent 
of his delighted love : 

Ben so che, garzoncello, Ah, little boy, full well I know 

hai perfetto sapere, Thy wisdom is a perfect thing, 

e tutto quel potere Thy power hath as strong a wing 

c'ha la perfetta etade ; As ever rounded years possessed, 

donqua, co picciolello Ah, little one, and is it so 

poteve contenere That Thou canst hold unfaltering 

tutto lo tuo volere The will and nature of a king 

en tanta vilitade ? In such a little lowly nest ? 

Or again it is the romantic aspect of Franciscan feeling 
that he gives us : and we hear once more the "French- 
like rejoicings " with which Francis praised the name 
of Christ : 

1 This and the following quotations from Jacopone's laude are taken by 
kind permission from the translations of Mrs. Theodore Beck. 

39 



ST. FRANCIS 



Tal amador e fior de puritade, 
nato nel campo de verginitade, 
egli e lo giglio de 1'umanitade, 
de suavitate 
e de perfetto odore. 



That Lover is the flower of purity, 
Born in the garden of virginity ; 
He is the Lily of Humanity 
Perfect of fragrance and of loveliness. 



Still more in the great lyric Amor de Caritate, once 
attributed to St. Francis himself and possibly inspired 
by one of his songs, does Jacopone give supreme poetic 
form to that ardent passion of the soul for Christ which 
is the very heart of Franciscan spirituality : 



Gia non posso vedere creatura, 
al Creatore grida tutta mente ; 
cielo ne terra non me da dolzura, 
per Cristo amore tutto m'e fetente ; 
luce de sole si me pare oscura, 
vedendo quella faccia resplendente, 
cherubin son niente, 
belli per ensengare, 
serafin per amare, 
chi vede lo Signore. 



Che cielo e terra grida e sempre 

chiama, 

e tutte cose ch'io si deggia amare ; 
ciascuna dice con tutto cuor : Ama 
I'amor c'ha fatto briga d'abracciare ; 
che quello amore, pero che te abrama, 
tutti noi ha fatti per ad se trare ; 
veggio tanto arversare 



Now on no creature can I turn my 

sight, 

But on my Maker all my mind is set ; 
Earth, sea, and sky are emptied of 

delight, 
For Christ's dear love all else I clean 

forget : 
All else seems vile, day seems as dark 

as night ; 
Cherubim, seraphim, in whom are 

met 

Wisdom and Love, must yet 
Give place, give place, 
To that One Face 
To my dear Lord of Love. 

For heaven and earth and all things 

else do cry, 
That Love is all my task, my life, 

my place ; 
Their heartfelt voices cry aloud 

" Draw nigh ! 

The Love that made thee, hasten 
to embrace ! 



310 



TWO FRANCISCAN MYSTICS 



bontade e cortesia 
de quella luce pia 
die se spande de fuore. 



En Cristo e nata nova creatura, 
spogliato lo vechio, om fatto novello ; 
ma tanto 1'amor monta con ardura, 
lo cor par die se fenda con coltello, 
mente con senno tolle tal calura, 
Cristo me tra' tutto, tanto e bello ! 
Abracciome con ello 
e per amor si chiamo : 
Amor, cui tanto bramo, 
famme morir d'amore ! 



That Love that thirsts for thee 

eternally, 
Commands us, to His arms thy soul 

to chase ; 

He pours His light and grace, 
And courtesy, 
All, all on thee, 
In spreading streams of Love ! " 

Now, a new creature, I in Christ am 

born, 
The old man stripped away ; I am 

new-made ; 
And mounting in me, like the sun at 

morn 
Love breaks my heart, even as a 

broken blade : 
Christ, First and Only Fair, from me 

hath shorn 
My will, my wits, and all that in 

me stayed, 

I in His arms am laid, 
I cry and call, 
" O Thou my All, 
let me die of Love ! " 



We may agree that the man who wrote this was 
indeed a true Franciscan poet ; revealing in his work 
the breadth and depth, richness and intensity of the 
new spirit brought by Francis into the Christian world. 
We need not suppose that he experienced all that he 
sang ; for the one hundred poems, amongst the many 
attributed to him, which criticism allows to be authentic, 
range over the whole field of spiritual experience 
from the extremes of penitence to the loftiest reaches 

3 11 



ST. FRANCIS 



of the contemplative soul and weave together the 
simplest and most philosophic aspects of religion. 

Jacopone, like his younger contemporary, Angela 
of Foligno, was a convert ; an example of that absolute 
break with the past in middle age, and heroic dedication 
to new and difficult ideals, which sometimes occurs in 
the history of great souls and is seen in its most impres- 
sive form in the early Franciscan movement. He 
was, according to tradition, a successful and avaricious 
lawyer ; fond of luxury and pleasure, and hostile to 
religious ideas. His poetry further reveals him as a 
person of great artistic and literary sensibilities, and a 
lover of music. He possessed an active and flexible 
mind, capable of a wide range of interests, from political 
controversy to transcendental contemplation. He had 
the artist's power of absorbing and making his own 
material drawn from many different sources ; and also 
the vigorous and combative temper which afterwards 
showed itself in that passion for reform which brought 
him into collision with the official Church. 

About the year 1268, when he would be forty years 
old, this prosperous worldling was abruptly converted ; 
joined the Third Order of St. Francis, conformed to 
its most severe demands, distributed all his property to 
the poor, and adopted the career of a wandering preacher 
and " minstrel of God." The well-known and dramatic 
story, which ascribes his conversion to the sudden death 
of his beautiful young wife, and the discovery that 
she wore under her magnificent clothes the penitent's 

312 



Plate XI. 




Bussatio, Miisto Civico. 



St. Francis receiving the Stigmata 

By Benedetto Montagna. 
(First half of Sixteenth Century) 



ST. FRANCIS 



of the contemplative soul and weave together the 
simplest and most philosophic aspects of religion. 

Jacopone, like his younger contemporary, Angela 
of Foligno, was a convert ; an example of that absolute 
break with the past in middle age, and heroic dedication 
to new and difficult ideals, which sometimes occurs in 
the history of great souls and is seen in its most impres- 
sive form in the early Franciscan movement. He 
was, according to tradition, a successful and avaricious 
lawyer ; fond of luxury and pleasure, and hostile to 
religious ideas. His poetry further reveals him as a 
person of great artistic and literary sensibilities, and a 
lover of music. He possessed an active and flexible 
mind, capable of a wide range of interests, from political 
controversy to transcendental contemplation. He had 
the artist's power of absorbing and making his own 
material drawn from many different sources ; and also 
the vigorous and combative temper which afterwards 
showed itself in that passion for reform which brought 
him into collision with the official Church. 

About the year 1268, when he would be forty years 
old, this prosperous worldling was abruptly converted ; 
joined the Third Order of St. Francis, conformed to 
its most severe demands, distributed all his property to 
the poor, and adopted the career of a wandering preacher 
and " minstrel of God." The well-known and dramatic 
story, which ascribes his conversion to the sudden death 
of his beautiful young wife, and the discovery that 
she wore under her magnificent clothes the penitent's 

312 



Plate XL 




Hussano, Ulusto Cirico. 



St. Francis receiving the Stigmata 

By Benedetto Montagna. 
(First half of Sixteenth Century) 



TWO FRANCISCAN MYSTICS 



hair-shirt, may well be true : but it only comes to us 
in a late and legendary form. What is. true, is the 
thorough-going character of the conversion, however 
brought about : the startling completeness with which 
Jacopone broke with the past. Tales are told of the 
almost insane antics whereby he demonstrated his new 
contempt for the wisdom and conventions of the world, 
and the " folly of love " by which he was now pos- 
sessed : and many of his poems express the horror and 
distrust of learning which was a convention among the 
Spiritual friars. Nevertheless, those poems themselves 
prove to us that he brought to the service of God, 
not the holy ignorance and mental destitution which 
he praises so highly, but an extremely well-furnished 
and efficient intellect. He gave to the Franciscan 
spirit the literary expression it required ; and gave it in 
the form of songs which conceal in the simple metres 
of vernacular hymns or laude the most profound religious 
and mystical ideas. 

Poetry is a powerful missionary agent. There can 
be little doubt that it was through the songs of Jacopone 
and his many imitators that these spiritual ideas spread 
so quickly through Italy and beyond it, raised the 
level of religious thought and feeling, and disclosed a 
new vision of reality to countless souls. Jacopone was 
a highly educated man. He was able to absorb both 
the secular and the religious culture of his world. We 
find in his poems, mingled with the simplest expressions 
of intimate Christian feeling, and with reminiscences of 

313 



ST. FRANCIS 



those Italian love poets who influenced Dante's youthful 
work, many lofty Platonic conceptions directly derived 
from St. Augustine and Dionysius the Areopagite 
two writers who seem to have been specially congenial 
to him. In thus widening the area over which the 
exquisite spirit bequeathed by St. Francis could find 
nourishment and literary material, whilst himself re- 
maining loyal to the principle of poverty in its most 
rigid form for he was a great leader among the Spiritual 
friars he performed a great and most necessary task. 
For no religious movement arising out of the special 
and intense experiences of an individual can produce 
its full effect, until it thus brings in and transforms 
material from outside the first circle of enthusiasm. A 
simple instance among many of Jacopone's power in 
this direction is seen at the end of his great poem on 
Holy Poverty ; where the profound spiritual results 
of that perfect destitution from possessions, external 
and internal, material and mental alike, which St. Francis 
held to be the secret of freedom and joy, are gathered 
up and expressed : 

Da onne ben si t'ha spogliato Emptied when them art of Good and 

e de virtute spropriato, Right, 

tesaurizi el tuo mercato Dispossest of Virtue and Delight, 

en tua propria vilitate. Prize that bargain, clasp thy treasure 

tight, 
In thy lowness and humility : 

Questo cielo e fabricate, For this Heaven is built and 

en un nihil e fondato, 'stablished fast, 

In the Nothingness where First is Last, 

3H 



TWO FRANCISCAN MYSTICS 



o'l'amor purificato Where Pure Love, whence all alloy 

vive nella veritate. . . . hath past, 

Dwelleth with Eternal Verity. . . . 

Viver io e non io, Lo, I live ! yet not my self alone ; 

e 1'esser mio non esser mio, I am I, yet am I not mine own ; 

questo e un tal trasversio, And this change, cross-wise, obscure, 

che non so diffinitate. unknown, 

Language cannot tell its mystery. 

Povertate e nulla avere Poverty has nothing in her hand, 

e nulla cosa poi volere ; Nothing craves, in sea, or sky, or land : 

ed omne cosa possedere Hath the Universe at her command ! 
en spirito de libertate. Dwelling in the heart of Liberty. 

I can only speak shortly of the political and con- 
troversial side of Jacopone's varied career. We are 
thinking of him now as the great poet who first gave 
the Franciscan spirit artistic form ; and his conflicts 
with the ecclesiastical authorities represent that aspect 
of his nature which was furthest removed from St. 
Francis' ideals. Still, we should have no truthful 
picture of the real man if we ignored these episodes in 
his life. In his old age he became one of the leaders 
among the Spiritual Franciscans the band of enthusi- 
asts who struggled, sometimes with more fervour than 
common sense, to keep alive the literal observance of 
St. Francis' ideals. An early document calls him " one 
of those friars in whom Christ and His Spirit were 
most firmly believed to dwell," and no doubt his 
powerful mind and early training in the legal world, 
as well as his spiritual elevation, would tend to bring 



ST. FRANCIS 



him into a position of dominance. His vigorous and 
naturally combative nature threw itself with eagerness 
first into the struggle between the observant and miti- 
gated friars, and next into the degrading conflicts 
which raged round the election and resignation of 
Pope Celestine IV and the papacy of Boniface VIII. 
All real mystics long to make the externals of 
religious life match their interior vision of the loveliness 
of God ; and many, like Jacopone, are forced by that 
vision to attack the faulty human institutions which 
seem to hide it from the world. Francis was himself 
one of the greatest and most impassioned of all re- 
formers ; but his method was the Christ-like and pacific 
method of persuasive love, and he worked with the 
stuff of common life. Jacopone, too, was filled with a 
reforming zeal ; but it fed the hidden fire of his old 
vehement nature, and his method was the militant, 
uncompromising method of direct attack. Thus we 
are conscious in him of a discord between the active 
and poetic sides of his nature ; a cleavage between the 
poet of the love of Christ and the bitter satirist whose 
attacks upon Boniface VIII earned him three years of 
terrible imprisonment in the dungeons of Palestrina. 
The expert pen he had dedicated to the service of 
poverty was capable of a wide range of literary expres- 
sion, gentle and savage, lofty and scurrilous. On one 
hand, it could produce the lovely Platonic hymn to 
Divine Love as the Wisdom and Measure of the 
Universe : 

316 



TWO FRANCISCAN MYSTICS 



Amor, divino f uoco, 
amor de riso e gioco, 
amor non dai a poco, 
die se' ricco smesurato. 



Amor dolce e suave, 
de cielo, amor se'chiave ; 
a porto meni nave 
e campa el tempestato. 



Amor che dai luce 
ad omnia che luce, 
la luce non e luce, 
lume corporeato. . . 



Amor che dai forma 
ad omnia c'ha forma, 
la forma tua reforma 
1'omo ch'e deformato. 



O Love, Thou fire divine, of laughter 

spun ; 

Love that art smile and jest, 
Thou giv'st us of Thy best, 
Thy wealth unmeasured that is never 
done. . . . 

O sweet and gentle Love, Thou art 

the key 

Of heaven's city and fort : 
Steer Thou my ship to port, 
And from the tempest's fury shelter 
me. 

Love, Giver of Light to all that fain 

would shine. 

Thy light alone is bright, 
There beams none other light, 
Save with a sullen glow that is not 
Thine. . . . 

Love, all things that have form are 

formed by Thee ; 
And man, whose form is bent 
In vile disfigurement, 
Thou dost re-form in Thine own 
majesty. 



That same pen could also lash without mercy the 
corruption of the Church, and the sins, real or supposed, 
of its ruler. Reading the terrible verses Jacopone 
addressed to the Pope, we can hardly be surprised that 
they were rewarded by imprisonment and the more 
dreadful penalty of excommunication. He was released 
from his dungeon in 1303, when the French troops 
entered Alagna. He was an old man, and had only 



ST> FRANCIS 



three years to live ; but tradition ascribes to those three 
years some of the greatest of his mystical songs. His 
vehement spirit, which threw itself with such violence 
first into the quest of God and then into conflict with 
man, seems to have been subdued and purified in 
suffering : and he came out, perhaps, to a vision of 
life nearer to that of St. Francis, than any that his 
earlier years had known. The dating of his poems is 
conjectural, but I think these verses well represent his 
last phase : 



O alma nobilissima, 
diime que cose vide ! 
Veggo un tal non veggio 
che onne cosa me ride ; 
la lengua m'e mozata 
e lo pensier m'ascide, 
miracolosa side 
vive nel suo adorato. 



(The Auditor questions) " Most noble 

and majestic Soul, 
O tell me, tell me, what you see ? " 
(Soul) " I see such. Dark, so deep so 

blind, 

That all things, ever, smile on me. 
My tongue may stammer and may fail, 
My thought may stark and lifeless 

be, 

Yet Faith, that wondrous mystery, 
Can live in the Adored alone." 



Que frutti reducene 
de esta tua visione ? 
Vita ordinata 
en onne nazione ; 
lo cor ch'era immondissimo, 
enferno inferione, 
de trinita magione 
letto santificato. 



(Auditor) " And what the fruits that 

thou shalt pluck 

Of this thy vision sweet and fair ? " 
(Sow/) " The fruit shall be an ordered 

life, 

Redeemed and lovely everywhere. 
The heart that was impure and vile, 
More deep than Hell in its despair, 
Shall be a home for love and 



prayer, 
A mansion for the Three in One." 



3 I8 



TWO FRANCISCAN MYSTICS 



Se creatura pete O Creatures, if ye now should come 
per lo mio amor avere, For my affection clamouring, 

vadane a la bontade Go to that Goodness, Whose it is } 
che 1'ha distribuire, Who holds it for distributing, 

ch'io non aggio que fare, He all my being doth possess, 
ella ha lo possedere, I am not lord of anything ; 

puo far lo suo piacere, For He may do His pleasuring 

che lo s'ha comparato. With what He bought to be His 

own. 

Now we come to our second great example of the 
transforming and life-giving power of the Franciscan 
spirit. If in Jacopone it made from what seems un- 
promising material a great poet of the Love of God, 
in his younger contemporary, Angela of Foligno, it 
made from still more unpromising material a supreme 
mystic and mother of souls. Angela was a woman 
who belonged like Jacopone to the prosperous middle 
class ; who lived like Jacopone till early middle age in 
apparent contentment with the ideals and satisfactions 
of her world ; who like Jacopone was seized and 
transmuted by the mysterious alchemy of the Cross, 
and became one of the great creative spirits of the 
Franciscan revival. Until the last few years, Angela of 
Foligno was little more than a name to us ; perhaps 
not even that, except to specialists in religious history. 
Even now, she is only beginning to be appreciated at 
her full worth by the small circle of readers which is 
interested in the literature of mystical experience, or 
finds its own spiritual nourishment in the teachings 
of the saints. Yet this woman, the contemporary of 
Dante, had visions not unworthy of the attention of 

319 



ST. FRANCIS 



that supreme poet ; she developed to a high degree 
the mystic's power of spiritual creativeness ; her friends 
and pupils called her a Mistress of Theologians, and she 
exercised at the height of her development a formative 
influence on some of the most spiritual personalities of 
her day. The still unfinished researches of the Fran- 
ciscan scholar, Pere Ferre", to whose published results 
I am greatly indebted, are doing much to help us to 
realize Angela as a vivid and most human personality : 
the critical edition of her works now being prepared 
will restore her to her rightful place among the great 
Catholic mystics. 

If we are short of authentic material for the recon- 
struction of Jacopone's life, and do not really know 
much save by inference of his personality, or the inner 
and outer events which turned a successful lawyer into 
a troubadour of God, this complaint cannot be made 
in Angela's case. Born about 1248, she died in 1309. 
Nine years later, the narrative of her revelations and 
teaching was seen and approved by Cardinal Jacopo 
Colonna. Few converts have given a more detailed 
and coherent account of their own development, and 
few records of religious experience have come down to 
us in a more authentic form. There still exists in the 
Communal Library at Assisi a little MS which was 
certainly written in the first half of the I4th century, 
and. contains a full account of her life, visions, and 
doctrine, with many realistic details that the printed 
editions of her works suppress. It is called " The Book 

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TWO FRANCISCAN MYSTICS 



of Sister Leila of Foligno of the 3rd Order of St. 
Francis " ; a title which seems to carry with it a homely 
and reassuring sense of reality. The Blessed Angela in 
her great moments, when she is struggling to tell us of 
her apprehensions of God, may seem a remote and 
awe-inspiring figure. But the Sister Leila of this 
document is some one whom we can all understand. 
She is just one of the countless men and women who 
have fallen under the spell of the Franciscan spirit, and 
achieved in its strength a new and life-giving life. We 
identify her without difficulty with the tiny, fragile 
creature whose body in its little grey silk dress and 
white veil still lies in a glass sarcophagus above her 
altar in the church of Foligno. 

The spiritual history of Sister Leila falls into three 
distinct divisions ; which it is tempting to identify 
with the three stages of the traditional Mystic Way 
Purgation, Illumination, and Union. The first stage 
began with her conversion, about the year 1285, when 
she was 37 years old. It lasted six years. The next, 
which opens with her celebrated vision on the road 
between Spello and Assisi in 1291, lasted about four 
or five years ; and to this most of her great ecstatic 
experiences belong. During her last period, from 
about the year 1297 when she was approaching 50 
years of age till her death, we see her in her creative 
aspect ; turning away from her own subjective experi- 
ences, which have now performed their educative office 
and prepared her for the work of a mother of souls. 
Y 321 



ST. FRANCIS 



We begin then, as she begins her own story, with 
a picture of the unregenerate Angela, between 35 
and 40 years old. She was then a prosperous married 
woman, living in the little town of Foligno with her 
husband and sons. There was nothing about her to 
suggest that she was destined to be one of the greatest 
followers of Francis. She was fond of comfort, fine 
clothes, good food and pleasure. Her vanity was not 
satisfied by social success. She also desired a reputation 
for piety, without paying the price ; and confesses it 
with disarming candour. It seems likely that she was 
already in name but not in fact a Franciscan Tertiary ; 
and made an elaborate pretence of living up to her 
obligations. 

" I caused it to be told to those whom I had bidden 
to my house that I ate neither fish nor meat. ... I 
diligently made an outward show of being poor, but 
caused many sheets and coverlets to be put where I 
lay down to sleep and taken up in the morning so that 
none might see them. . . . During the whole of my 
life I have studied how I might obtain the fame of 
sanctity." 

We must agree that the outlook for Sister Leila's soul 
at this stage was not promising. Yet not much more 
than ten years separated this masterpiece of self-indulgent 
insincerity from the great saint and mystic who was 
the mother of many spiritual sons, and who worked in 
the tempestuous soul of Ubertino da Casale a complete 

322 



TWO FRANCISCAN MYSTICS 



spiritual renovation. We have in her a wonderful 
example of the re-making of human personality, the 
liberation of its hidden greatness, achieved through the 
literal pursuit of Franciscan poverty. 

Angela ascribes the beginning of her conversion to 
her growing uneasiness over certain grave sins which 
she had never confessed ; although, as part of her 
general religious pretence, she continued to go to the 
sacraments. We do not know what these sins were ; 
but as she afterwards enumerated frivolous running and 
walking, smelling flowers and wearing fancy shoes, 
amongst her crimes, we need not suppose anything of 
a very dreadful nature. She prayed to St. Francis, 
the natural friend of all uneasy spirits, begging him to 
send her a confessor to whom she could dare to speak ; 
and that same night he appeared in a dream significant 
dreams played a large part in Angela's spiritual life 
and said to her, " Sister, had you asked me sooner, I 
had sooner granted your request ! " The next morn- 
ing, returning from Mass at the Franciscan Church, she 
went into the Cathedral ; and there, seeing in the 
pulpit her cousin, or perhaps uncle, Arnaldo, a friar 
minor and chaplain to the Bishop of Foligno, she at 
once recognized in him the confessor by whom she 
was to be absolved. After this she tried, in spite of 
family opposition, to live in a more Christian way ; and 
at least to fulfil the bare obligations of a Franciscan 
Tertiary as regards simplicity of life, renouncing her 
magnificent clothes and delicate food. Few mystics 
y* 323 



ST. FRANCIS 



have exhibited to us as clearly as she does that gradual 
and difficult re-making of human personality, that 
solid unsensational process of self-conquest, which forms 
the first stage in every real and enduring spiritual life. 
She tells us how it was forced upon her, in spite of her 
natural reluctances, that she must " choose the thorny 
path " of absolute detachment from possessions and 
desires ; and how, bit by bit, with many hesitations, 
she gave up all that she most loved, till at last she 
achieved that perfect Franciscan poverty which was 
the ideal of the Spiritual Friars. 

It took five years for this stage to be reached ; by 
which time Angela was living in great retirement with 
one companion near the Franciscan church at Foligno. 
Her husband, children, and mother had all died within 
three years of her conversion, swept away perhaps by 
the pestilence which visited from time to time the 
Umbrian towns : and she no doubt appeared to her 
neighbours to be merely one of those middle-aged 
widows who had repented of a worldly past and given 
the rest of their lives to the service of God. There 
was nothing to distinguish her from the numerous 
Franciscan tertiaries who formed the backbone of the 
religious laity in Umbria at this time. Inwardly she 
says that she had now trodden twenty of those 'thirty 
steps on the Way of the Cross which lay between her 
conversion and her full mystical development. This 
characteristically Franciscan conception is obviously 
derived from the 30 hidden years of the Life of 



TWO FRANCISCAN MYSTICS 



Christ ; and we notice here the intensely Evangelical 
and Christocentric character of Franciscan mysticism, 
how close it keeps to the symbolism of the New 
Testament. 

I emphasize this long quiet time of inward travail, 
because it is something which we can all understand, 
and which shows us how homely and how human is 
the material out of which a mystical saint is made : 
how the Franciscan spirit works in, and gradually 
transforms, the common faulty stuff of human nature, 
and makes of it a new thing. Jacopone da Todi was 
one instance of this : Angela is another. Her account 
is full of little revealing glimpses of the struggle between 

the ingrained love of comfort and the nascent love of 
God the natural and the supernatural self which 

remind us that the real life of the Spirit has at least as 
much to do with will as with feeling and belief. 

" I reflected and obliged myself to wish to do 
penance . . .^1 determined to forsake everything . . . 
all my friends dissuaded me from this thing. But at 
last the Divine Mercy sent a great illumination into my 
heart. ... So then I resolved in good earnest." 

That resolution, and the distribution of her property 
which put it into effect, mark the close of Angela's 
first phase. The second opens with the great vision 
on the road to Assisi, which is the most celebrated of 
her experiences. She tells us how, having almost 

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ST. FRANCIS 



finished the giving of her goods to the poor, she said 
to God, " Lord, that which I do, I do only that I may 
find Thee ; wherefore, having done it, grant me the 
grace that I may find Thee " and to this prayer 
she seemed to herself to receive the amazing answer, 
" When thou hast accomplished that which thou art 
doing, the whole Trinity will descend unto thee." 

The fulfilment of this promise came abruptly, as 
she walked with a number of pious women going on 
pilgrimage to the shrine of. St. Francis at Assisi. She 
had just renewed her vows as a Franciscan Tertiary, 
and was praying to St. Francis that she might serve 
his order well. The result is told best in her own 
words : 



" Now when I was come to that place which lieth 
between Spello and the narrow road which leadeth 
upward unto Assisi, and is beyond Spello, it was said 
unto me : 

" ' Thou hast prayed unto My servant Francis, and 
I have not willed to send thee another messenger. I 
am the Holy Spirit, who am come unto thee to bring 
thee such consolation as thou hast never before tasted. 
And I will go with thee even unto Saint Francis. I 
shall be within thee, and but few of those who are with 
thee will perceive it. I will bear thee company and 
will speak with thee all the way ; I will make no end 
to my speaking. And thou wilt not be able to attend 
unto any save unto Me, for I have bound thee and will 
not depart from thee until thou comest for the second 
time unto Saint Francis. Then will I depart from thee 

326 



TWO FRANCISCAN MYSTICS 



in so far as this present consolation is concerned, but in 
no other manner will I ever leave thee, and thou shalt 
love Me.' " 



" I can never describe," says Angela, " the joy and 
sweetness I felt, especially when He said, c I am the 
Holy Spirit who am entering into thee.' " 

Absorbed in this secret conversation, she came to 
Assisi, made her first station in the Church, and dined 
with her fellow-pilgrims, without betraying anything 
of the overwhelming experiences which were taking 
place in her soul. Going back into the Church for the 
second time, however, she felt the sense of the Divine 
Presence gradually passing from her : leaving her in 
such grief and desolation, that she fell upon the ground 
uttering loud inarticulate cries. All her fellow-pilgrims 
and the friars ran to her in alarm ; and among them 
her cousin Arnaldo, now a friar of the Convent of 
St. Francis. Horrified to discover in a member of his 
respectable family the cause of this disgraceful scene, 
he told his relative, with some sharpness, to return home 
and refrain from disturbances in church. 

But meeting Angela a little later in Foligno, and 
questioning her as to the cause of her strange conduct, 
Arnaldo discovered with amazement that he had to 
do, not with a hysterical woman, but with a great 
ecstatic. Then began a collaboration to which we owe 
one of the masterpieces of Christian mysticism. Between 
1291 and 1296 the period of her mystical formation 

327 



ST. FRANCIS 



Arnaldo wrote at his cousin's dictation all that she 
was able to tell or he to understand of her great visions 
and experiences of God ; visions which seem to owe 
nothing to reading or theological instruction, and yet 
show an amazing intuitive grasp of religious and 
philosophical truth. I do not think Pere Ferre* goes 
too far when he compares these revelations with those 
of St. Teresa herself. No doubt both these mystics 
owed much more than they knew to their religious 
background, and to such theological ideas as inevitably 
reached them through sermons, conversations, and 
similar channels. Angela, as a member of a religious 
corporation saturated in mystical ideas, can hardly fail 
to have absorbed to some extent the colour of her 
environment. But even so, the ten great visions of the 
Being of God which she poured into Arnaldo's astonished 
ears must be given a high place in the literature of 
direct religious experience. 

" The eyes of my soul were opened and I beheld 
the plenitude of God, whereby I did comprehend the 
whole world, both here and beyond the sea, and the 
abyss and all things else ; and therein I beheld naught 
save the divine power in a manner assuredly indescrib- 
able, so that through excess of marvelling the soul cried 
with a loud voice, saying, * This whole world is full of 
God ! ' Wherefore I now comprehended that the 
world is but a small thing ; I saw, moreover, that the 
power of God was above all things, and that the whole 
world was filled with it." 

328 



TWO FRANCISCAN MYSTICS 



" There was a time when my soul was exalted to 
behold God with so much clearness that never before 
had I beheld Him so distinctly. But love did I not see 
here so fully ; rather I lost that which I had before 
and was left without love. Afterwards I saw Him 
darkly ; and this darkness was the greatest blessing 
that could be imagined, and no thought could conceive 
aught that would equal this." 

" Then was there given unto the soul an assured 
faith, a firm and certain hope, wherein I felt so sure of 
God that all fear left me. For by that blessing which 
came with the darkness I did collect my thoughts and 
was made so sure of God that I can never again doubt 
but that I do of a certainty possess Him." 

" Here, likewise, do I see all Good ; and seeing it, 
the soul cannot think that it will depart from it or it 
from the Good, or that in future it must ever leave the 
Good. The soul delighteth unspeakably therein, yet 
it beholdeth naught which can be related by the tongue 
or imagined in the heart. It seeth nothing, yet seeth 
all things, because it beholdeth this Good darkly and 
the more darkly and secretly the Good is seen, the more 
certain is ( it, and excellent above all things." 

" Unto this most high power of beholding God 
ineffably through such great darkness was my spirit 
uplifted but three times only and no more ; and al- 
though I beheld Him countless times, and always 
darkly, yet never in such an high manner and through 
such great darkness." 

" All that I say of this seemeth unto me to be 
nothing, I even feel as though I offended in speaking 
of it ; for so greatly doth that Good exceed all my 

329 



ST. FRANCIS 



words that my speech doth appear to blaspheme 
against it." 







We can still share the bewilderment of Fra Arnaldo, 
when an elderly widow as yet unsuspected of an exces- 
sive spirituality, poured forth these amazing experiences ; 
with their apparent reminiscences of Christian Platonism, 
their exalted theological outlook, and complete aloofness 
from the commonplaces of popular devotion. Even 
though we accept the substance of Angela's revelations 
as inspired, we have still to account for the philosophic 
aptness of the language with which she tries to clothe 
them language which takes us direct to the sources 
of mystical theology in St. Augustine and Dionysius 
the Areopagite, and which we cannot, without straining 
probability, suppose her to have invented for herself. 

Now here, I believe, is the point of contact between 
our two mystics. Jacopone da Todi, 20 years Angela's 
senior, and having his headquarters at Todi but a 
few miles from Foligno, was already famous as a poet 
and leader of the Spiritual Franciscans at the time when 
her revelations began. Many of his laude were used 
as hymns at gatherings of the Tertiaries and other 
religious confraternities. We may be sure that they 
were familiar to all fervent Franciscans of the Umbrian 
plain ; and that Angela, who may well have known him 
at first-hand, is certain to have received the influence of 
his works. When we reflect on the amount of potted 
theology, as well as less desirable matter, which the 

330 



TWO FRANCISCAN MYSTICS 



persevering use even of" Hymns Ancient and Modern " 
can instil into the mind, we find here at least a plausible 
explanation for the startlingly metaphysical and, if I 
may so put it, extremely unfeminine character of 
Angela's conception of God. Jacopone, we know, 
with the poet's instinct for suggestive image, seized 
and wove into his poetry many of the paradoxical ideas 
of Dionysius and Augustine. Angela, quick to recog- 
nize anything that would express the inexpressible, 
would find in his laude the language she required. 

And if this be so, we have here a very interesting 
example of the way in which religious truth is spread ; 
the completing parts which can be played in this 
process by literature and by vision by the interaction 
of various temperaments and gifts. St. Francis, that 
exquisitely sensitive instrument for the revelation of 
the love of God the adoring poet and humble penitent, 
the bridegroom of Lady Poverty, Brother of the Birds, 
and devoted servant of the Cross brings to the world 
and leaves in the world a new spirit. That spirit first 
touches and transforms a hard-headed and combative 
lawyer, worldly and self-indulgent ; turning him from 
unreal to real interests, making of him the supreme 
singer of the heights and depths of mystical love. Then 
it seizes upon a very ordinary, self-regarding, vain and 
comfort-loving woman ; pressing her to walk in the 
way of the Cross, and making her first a deep gazer 
into the secrets of the Divine Nature, and then a great 
and self-forgetful mother and teacher of souls. And 

331 



ST. FRANCIS 



just because the poet and scholar followed his special 
vocation, the mystic and spiritual shepherdess was the 
better able to follow hers. For it is one of the great 
discoveries of Christianity and a discovery which the 
Franciscan movement demonstrates with a special vivid- 
ness and power that no saint ever stands alone ; and 
no fruitful knowledge of God is ever won or imparted 
in isolation from other men. 



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